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Denver area music / musician scene

Messages
330
What's the music and musician scene like in the Denver/Boulder area? Any members here from there? Any jazz or R&B or funk or soul? Or is it strictly rock? The wife is interested in moving there.

Thanks!
 

lestera34

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,578
I can tell you that if I lived in either (headed to Denver permanently soon), I would be broke from concert tickets.
 

R2112

Member
Messages
1,646
Lived in Colorado springs in the 90s after living in Denver for three months. Like every place else in the U.S musically, it was GREAT for the first half of that decade and underwent a decline starting in '97 or so, which still persists to this day. There USED to be a lot of great clubs which offered good pay, and if you were a decent band at the right club, you could even expect owners to spring for ads on local radio. My cover band got air time for several gigs -- great memories.

Out of the three cities, (Denver, the Springs, Boulder), Boulder still has the best scene, primarily due to the University being so close. Oddly enough, if you have a decent band and are willing to drive to Pueblo (about 90 miles south of Denver), there are some great clubs, and those people LOVE their classic rock). Also some decent money to be made in the Spring/Summer bike festivals at Cripple Creek and Greely, where it used to be common for bands to be booked for multi-date gigs at local casinos, to include pay, lodging and meals.

So in a nutshell, there are definitely opportunities for decent bands, but don't expect any cutting-edge music coming out of that area. And decent band members can be tough to find. But there is an audience to be tapped into there.
 

metropolis_4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,645
There's a thriving "indie" scene here. Original bands are doing fairly well. Cover bands are really struggling though. Very few places willing to pay enough to make it worth it, and the market is flooded with hack 'weekend warrior' hobby bands willing to play for next to nothing. As said above it can be tough to find decent musicians to play with; there's a small local group of serious musicians, but a lot of them have been driven out of town by the flood of hobbyists and guys who just want to be in a band to drink and try to score points with the girls in the bar. There are quite a few good outdoor festivals and fairs in the summer, but the winters are a bleak affair for bands.

If you're talking about getting into playing in the local scene weddings and special events are where it's at. There are tons of conferences and retreats in the metro area, and up in the foothills and there are good gigs and good money to be made in that market.
 

Magicpad

Member
Messages
1,561
There's a thriving "indie" scene here. Original bands are doing fairly well. Cover bands are really struggling though. Very few places willing to pay enough to make it worth it, and the market is flooded with hack 'weekend warrior' hobby bands willing to play for next to nothing. As said above it can be tough to find decent musicians to play with; there's a small local group of serious musicians, but a lot of them have been driven out of town by the flood of hobbyists and guys who just want to be in a band to drink and try to score points with the girls in the bar. There are quite a few good outdoor festivals and fairs in the summer, but the winters are a bleak affair for bands.

If you're talking about getting into playing in the local scene weddings and special events are where it's at. There are tons of conferences and retreats in the metro area, and up in the foothills and there are good gigs and good money to be made in that market.
+1

Good synopsis. Lots of venues to play, but only a select few that will pay an original band fairly (decently). Lots of variety in music. I moved from the "cover band" to the "indie scene" and now into the "metal scene" as of a few years ago, and its a great community. Bands, for the most part, try and support other bands and there really isn't too much drama.

Luckily, my band has been out of the "bar scene" for awhile, but I remember it being fun. Just make sure to keep a good work ethic and you will get lots of great opportunities. The big 3 local promoters: AEG, SodaJerk, and Rockpanther are all great, professional, and pay fairly. Plus they give us opportunities to open for bands that I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd get the chance to play with.
 

Hugh_s

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,827
There's a big "pay to play" thing in the rock clubs. Plenty of smaller indie and art venues, though.
 

sanrico

Senior Member
Messages
12,240
I have a childhood friend who plays in Denver. He's in a band that's pretty well-known from what I can tell, and it's how he makes his living. He gigs a LOT. I don't believe they are a cover band either. I think they do originals and throw in some dance covers, depending on the venue.
 

Magicpad

Member
Messages
1,561
I have a childhood friend who plays in Denver. He's in a band that's pretty well-known from what I can tell, and it's how he makes his living. He gigs a LOT. I don't believe they are a cover band either. I think they do originals and throw in some dance covers, depending on the venue.
What's his band's name? I'd love to go check out new music!
 

sanrico

Senior Member
Messages
12,240
I've seen Wendy...she opened for Eric Johnson years back when he came to Colorado Springs. She's good.
I've never seen them live. I feel like a turd saying that, considering he's one of my oldest friends and we started playing music together when we were kids. We still communicate often, but I've just never gotten up there to see them.

I'm a lousy friend.
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,192
The scene for indie/rock bands is pretty good. Lots of venues and appreciative audiences. There isn't any money in it, but plenty of places to play shows to actual crowds of people who will be into it.

People have been warning me about pay to play for years. I have played most of the rock clubs in town and have never been asked to pay to play....so I'm not sure what is going on there. The pay is so low you may as well be playing for free though.

As far as jazz, R and B etc.....no idea. If there is a scene I don't think it's very big.

As far as classic rock cover bands? I've seen a couple of GAWDAWFUL ones and that's about it. Not sure where they play, but not the same venues as myself.
 

Magicpad

Member
Messages
1,561
Wendy Woo Band
Hahaha that's awesome.... we've shared a bill with them a few times. They are great... I actually lent Wendy my amp once when she had issues with her's during a gig. They are a very successful band with a loyal following... you should be proud of your friend!
 

sanrico

Senior Member
Messages
12,240
Hahaha that's awesome.... we've shared a bill with them a few times. They are great... I actually lent Wendy my amp once when she had issues with her's during a gig. They are a very successful band with a loyal following... you should be proud of your friend!
Wow, small world!

I've known they do pretty well, but it's hard to gauge from a distance. Another friend texted me a pic of them playing for Day of Rock in front of a very large audience. I thought that was pretty cool.
 

Pablomago

Member
Messages
6,199
There's a great R&B band in Denver called "Soul School." My friend Audrey is the drummer. That girl can play!

Wendy Woo just released a new album. There's some good songs on it. Worth checking out.
 

IceTre

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
873
I live in Denver. I play in an indie rock band and front my own acoustic band. Both play original music. The music scene is big here. I've heard that a lot of bands and musicians are moving here, although I haven't met any. There are venues where beginning bands can get gigs, although they don't pay. You don't get paid until you have a fan base. I can't tell you much about Jazz, R&B, Soul or Funk, because I'm not into those scenes, but I can tell you that all of those types of music are played here by bands every week. In fact, there are bands playing every type of music in Denver, from bluegrass to metal, funk to punk.

The weekly newspaper here is called The Westword. You might check their website, westword.com, to get a feel for the music scene in Denver.

A big concern is that, for the past few years, developers have been buying up small houses, tearing them down and building giant ugly triplexes that sell for $700,000. And they've also been building expensive apartment complexes. So it's getting hard for a musician to find a place to live in Denver, unless you have a 6-figure day job. And the kind of folks who buy $700,000 houses generally aren't the type that go hear live music. Because of this I'm worried about the future of the music scene here.
 

zambiland

Member
Messages
17
Interesting comments here. I played with Wendy Woo off and on for 10 years (and on her first 4 or 5 albums). She's a local favorite for sure. I'm not part of the original rock, indie, or metal scene, so I don't know much about it. Most of the bands I played with toured out of state for most of the year (Great American Taxi and others), but I went back to being an all local musician when I decided to get off the road and go to law school in 2009 at the age of 50. Since then, I've been playing in a Grateful Dead tribute band, Shakedown Street, which is OK, the pay is good and we get to play the Boulder Theater or the Fox every now and then. Quixote's is pretty much the center of the jamband world, but they do also hire a surprising range of other music, from bluegrass to funk and jazzy stuff (like Fareed Haque).

There are also a range of smaller venues, such as The Laughing Goat, Cafe Sole, The Mountain Sun, in Boulder, Avogadro's in Ft. Collins, and numerous places in Denver, that have high quality music. Lots of independent singer/songwriter types, and they sometimes hire people as sidemen. That's how I got started with Wendy.

There is a great jazz scene. Dazzle and El Chepultepec are probably the most well known clubs, but there are others and there are some stellar players. There is also a great Brazilian scene, with some world class players. Ron Miles, Victor Mestas, and many others. CU Boulder has some great players who come through their music school, and they also present great concert series' as well.

Bigger (not huge) touring bands that also play locally include String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, The Motet (a band that featured just about every funk/jazz player in the state at one time or another), and others that follow in their footsteps all the time (some of the electronica people, including Bassnectar, have gotten big boosts in their careers from participating in the scene around here. Sonic Bloom, started by a friend of mine way back when, has become a pretty well known fest in that scene). There are lots of festivals around the state (Telluride has so many that they even have a weekend that's the No Festival Festival) and some really nice venues in the mountains, including State Bridge, out past Vail, and the Mishawaka Amphitheater, outside of Fort Collins. Various mountain towns have clubs, although there's not nearly the scene as there was when I moved here in 1995, when the winters were the happening time, due to mountain gigs, and the summer was the slow time. Aspen, Vail, Steamboat, Telluride, and Crested Butte all still have reasonable clubs to play that pay pretty well.

I guess I'm a weekend warrior now, but this is the first time I've had a day job, well, since I drove a cab in Boston in the 80s. And music, despite being part time, is still a decent part of my income. And, my boss is not only a good attorney, but was a musician for twenty years and now runs the Indie Acoustic Project (www.indieacoustic.com), is just one of my many legal friends who are also great musicians.

And, on a more local level here in Boulder, there is a great scene around house concerts down the street that have some seriously stunning musicians. I've been recording them (I have a location recording business) and I'm blown away, from jazz (Tony Monaco and Fareed Haque, and another great show was the Ron Miles Sextet. Ron always finds these young kids who just kill it. Solomon Chapman is a force to be reckoned with in the jazz world. He also had Dave Devine in his band, who's a great guitar player who gear addicts would love. He's sort of like Denver's Nels Cline, but with additional abilities. He participated in a show by singer/songwriter Rekha Ohal doing covers of Radiohead and his sonic interplay with Dan Schwindt was just great. Dan not only did some great textures and leads, he also played bass at the same time a la Charlie Hunter) to world music (Choros das Tres, three incredible virtuoso sisters from Brazil who play traditional Brazilian music) to the utterly weird (Eugene Chadbourne's show sounded like he was destroying the house). It's a cool scene.

So, it's pretty cool here, but it does suffer from the same music business doldrums that the rest of the country does, but perhaps not quite so badly. I can't guarantee that you'll make a great living but if you can't find any good music or good people to play with, you aren't looking hard enough. Or you need to practice more.
 

smolder

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
14,394
I've been here (evergreen) for a few years. The level of talent amongst folks who only play house concerts or just jam with friends is stunning. Being on stage when someone like that walks in used to be unnerving... Now it just seems normal.

And if you think you can just throw a jam band together and compete, think otherwise. There are some seriously great players in this area doing those kinds of gigs.
 




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