Should you pick Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri?

From left, Apple’s HomePod, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo don’t just want to play music — they want to build your smart home. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)

Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.

But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.

I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the best-selling speaker, ever.

The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android or cling to a Blackberry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.) Now, imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.

In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. Siri is for security.

Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)

The Amazon Basics Microwave takes commands from Alexa – and even keeps track of your popcorn supplies. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)

Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. With a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.

But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favor one company over another.

My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)

Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (such as Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.

Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favors with family.

How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.


Supported smart home devices: More than 20,000.

Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.

The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior dealmaking. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.

Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.

The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.

Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopsie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).

Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.

The $150 Google Home Hub serves as a smart speaker, smart home control center and family photo frame. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)

Google Assistant

Supported smart home devices: More than 10,000.

Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.

The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. On the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.

While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.

Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”

The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.

The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.) The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — such as what time all the lights should be off.


Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.

Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.

The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.

What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to specific user.)

Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.

The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.

Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.

Where to see live jazz in Denver this holiday season

There’s some warm and occasionally thrilling music scheduled as we head into the holiday season.

Vocalist Kurt Elling is an established, deeply thoughtful performer, and he’s doing something ambitious at Denver’s Soiled Dove Underground on December 12. There will be two performances that night, but each will feature different material. The first set at 7 p.m. will consist of holiday-themed songs, drawing from his 2016 “The Beautiful Day (Kurt Elling Sings Christmas)” album. That kaleidoscopic offering reflects the singer’s charisma as much as anything he’s ever released, and his warmth as a performer should be on ample display.

The second concert of the evening at 9:30 p.m. will feature material from his new release, “The Questions,” which is, according to a press release, “his musical response to this moment in history and the widespread anxiety of our times.” And I’ll admit, “The Questions” is searching, existential stuff. Elling’s covers of Bob Dylan and Carla Bley compositions prove he’s unafraid to jump into eclectic territory, and the results are often rewarding. Tickets for these sets begin at $40, and can be found at

Also on December 12 (and 13), tenor saxophonist Houston Person, a genuine wise man in the world of jazz who can stir up emotions with his heartfelt tone and lyricism, will play Dazzle at Baur’s. Person broke through on the “soul-jazz” scene in the 1960s, recording an exceptional string of dates for the Prestige record label. (My favorites include period-perfect titles like “Underground Soul!” and “Blue Odyssey,” but there are many more.) Person worked extensively with the singer Etta Jones until her death in 2001, and continues to travel well into his 80s, managing to stop at Dazzle at least once a year. Houston’s support for these shows includes some of Colorado’s most empathetic players: bassist Ken Walker, pianist Jeff Jenkins and drummer Paul Romaine. I don’t know if Person will perform any seasonal music during his Dazzle run, but his tenor style would mesh perfectly with your favorite holiday ballad. Tickets are $15-35 for the 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. sets both nights; get them through

New Orleans’ rowdy Rebirth Brass Band will be swinging through three Colorado venues December 13-15. Even though the drum and tuba propelled unit has experienced a rotating lineup in its 3 -year existence, it has always maintained the same irresistible life force. Often featured on the HBO series “Treme,” where Rebirth formed, there’s a sense of New Orleans’ (and America’s) musical history in every performance. The band makes purely timeless music. See them at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins on December 13, the Caribou Room in Nederland on December 14 and Denver’s Bluebird Theater on December 15. They don’t leave their environs for Colorado very often; catch them live if you can.

And more: Trumpeter Bob Montgomery and Friends play Denver’s Nocturne December 11…Big ’80s names of the Windham Hill Records “new age” movement, William Ackerman, Barbara Higbie and Todd Boston, play at the Boulder Theater December 11…Colorado Musical Royalty, Purnell Steen, appears at Dazzle on December 19.

Bret Saunders (bretsaunders@ can be heard from 5 to 10 a.m.weekdays at KBCO 97.3 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @Bretontheradio

Kendrick Lamar leads Grammy noms, where women make a comeback

NEW YORK — The music of “Black Panther,” with Kendrick Lamar in its starring role, officially owns the 2019 Grammy Awards, where women are heavily represented in the major four categories following a year where their presence was barely felt.

The Recording Academy announced Friday that Lamar is the top contender with eight nominations, including seven for his musical companion to the Marvel Studios juggernaut starring Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. “Black Panther: The Album, Music From and Inspired By” is up for album of the year, a category where women make up five of the eight nominees. Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monae, H.E.R. and Brandi Carlile also are up for the top prize, along with Drake and Post Malone.

The upcoming Grammys is the first where the academy extended its top four categories from five nominees to eight.

The “Panther” nomination would give Lamar a chance to win album of the year after losing three times. His most recently loss was in February when his critically acclaimed “DAMN” fell short to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” though Lamar’s project would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for music two months later, making him the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the prestigious honor.

Lamar’s Top 10 hit, the SZA-assisted “All the Stars,” is nominated for both record and song of the year (a songwriter’s award). Five other songs scored nominations in both categories, including Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”; Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”; Drake’s “God’s Plan”; Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey’s “The Middle”; and Carlile’s “The Joke.”


Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” and Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood” earned song of the year nods, while Post Malone’s “Rockstar” and Cardi B’s “I Like It,” featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, round out the nominees for record of the year.

Following Lamar, Drake — the year’s most successful artist — earned seven nominations. Though nominated for album of the year, he was surprisingly shut out of best rap album, where his rival Pusha T earned a nomination.

Drake’s frequent collaborator, producer Boi-1Da, earned six nods, as did Carlile, who also scored nominations in the American Roots category.

Cardi B, Gaga, H.E.R., Morris, Gambino, producer Sounwave and engineer Mike Bozzi scored five nominations each.

The nominees for the 2019 Grammys mark a departure from this year’s show, where women were underrepresented in the top four categories. Of the eight best new artist nominees, six are women, including H.E.R., Chloe x Halle, Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith. Rock band Greta Van Fleet and country singer Luke Combs also earned nominations.

Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow was criticized earlier this year at the Grammys when he said women need to “step up” when asked about the lack of women in the top categories, which he later acknowledged was a “poor choice of words.” It forced the academy to launch a new task force focused on inclusion and diversity; Portnow also announced he would be leaving the academy in 2019.

“In any given year there could be more folks from one area or one gender or one genre or one ethnicity that are making recordings and being successful with them than in another year. So, in many ways we’re just a reflection of that,” Portnow said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This year clearly there were many women not only making music but making great music and making music that resonates with our peer voters in terms of excellence, and so that certainly is at the forefront.”

Another milestone for women is in the non-classical producer of the year category, where songwriting extraordinaire Linda Perry earned a nomination. She’s just the seventh woman ever nominated for prize and first since 2004.

“Linda represents what we hope becomes the norm, which is the elimination of gender bias in producing and engineering in our industry,” Portnow said.

Perry will compete with Pharrell Williams, Boi-1Da, Larry Klein and Kanye West, the only nomination he earned.

Taylor Swift, a two-time album of the year winner, also only earned one nomination — her “reputation” album is up best pop vocal album. Justin Timberlake, whose “Man of the Woods” albums flopped earlier this year, picked up a nod for “Say Something,” his collaboration with Chris Stapleton.

Beyonce and Jay-Z, billed as The Carters, as well Ariana Grande, didn’t earn any of the big nominations. The Carters earned two nods in the R&B category along with best music video, while Grande picked up two nods in pop.

Artists who were completely snubbed include Carrie Underwood, Sam Smith, Migos, Kane Brown, Nicki Minaj, XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD, whose “Lucid Dreams” was one of the year’s biggest hits.

Some acts scored their first nominations ever, including Florida Georgia Line, whose megahit “Meant to Be” with Rexha is up best country duo/group performance. Camila Cabello, Malone, Mendes, Dan + Shay and DJ Mustard are also first-time nominees.

Gaga, who earned acting and music Golden Globe nominations Thursday, picked up four Grammy nominations for “Shallow,” while “Joanne” is up for best pop solo performance. The soundtrack for “A Star Is Born” was released after Grammy eligibility, though “Shallow” was released in time and also earned Cooper two nominations.

Other famous faces outside of music to earn nominations include Tiffany Haddish and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, both up for best spoken word album. Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Fred Armisen, Jim Gaffigan and Patton Oswalt are up for best comedy album.

Mac Miller, who died in September, earned a nomination for best rap album with “Swimming.” Chris Cornell, who died last year, is up for best rock performance with “When Bad Does Good.”

Demi Lovato, who relapsed after six years of sobriety and was hospitalized for an overdose in July, earned a nomination for best pop duo/group performance for “Fall In Line,” her duet with Christina Aguilera.

Those who earned four nominations are Musgraves, Malone, PJ Morton, Dave Cobb, Ludwig Goransson, Noah Shebib and SZA, who earned a Golden Globe nomination alongside Lamar for “All the Stars” on Thursday.

Lamar has won 12 Grammys throughout his career. Though seven of his eight nominations come from “Black Panther,” he also earned a nod for co-writing Jay Rock’s “Win,” up for best rap song.

The 2019 Grammys will hand out awards in its 84 categories live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2019.

Dead & Company, Anderson .Paak, Jenny Lewis and more Denver concerts on sale

As first reported by The Denver Post, Dead & Company – featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, John Mayer and Bob Weir, with Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti – will return to Boulder’s Folsom Field at the University of Colorado as part of its summer 2019 tour. The all-ages, July 5-6 concerts will close out the band’s currently announced string of dates, with tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 8. ($65-$155,

California lifer/lover and dazzling multi-talent Anderson .Paak (the period is intentional) will bring his Andy’s Beach Club World Tour to the Fillmore Auditorium on Feb. 13 to liven up our late-winter lives. Tickets for the all-ages show, promoting new album “Oxnard,” are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 following a litany of fan-club and promoter pre-sales. (Prices TBA,

Although he just played a trio of Colorado dates with Denver’s Nathaniel Rateliff last month, singer-songwriter legend John Prine is already plotting a 2019 return — this time backed by the Colorado Symphony. Prine will take over Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 28, with an opening set from I’m With Her. Tickets are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 14. ($55-$150,

RELATED: Blue-collar buddha John Prine returns to Colorado with “The Tree of Forgiveness”

Jenny Lewis’ 2019 On the Line Tour will play both Denver’s Ogden Theatre (on May 16) and Bellvue’s Mishawaka Amphitheatre (May 17) as it winds from New Mexico to Utah. Tickets for the shows are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. ($28.75-$30 via for Denver; prices TBA for Bellvue via

My Morning Jacket shows combine the best of jam band excess, rock-ready vigor and singer-songwriter sensitivity, and the band’s enviable aesthetics mean their special guests will be just as solid. Tickets for the band’s just-announced, all-ages, Aug. 2-3 stand at Red Rocks are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7, with openers yet to be announced. ($50-$95,

The Piano Guys — Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson and Al van der Beek (not all of whom play piano on stage, incidentally) — are headlining Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Aug. 20, with tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. ($49-$71.50,

Also at Red Rocks next year: Rage Rocks featuring Lettuce, The Soul Rebels and Tauk. Tickets for the all-ages, jam-funk extravaganza on June 15 are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. ($29.75-$39.75,

Metal legends Judas Priest will skip Denver this time around, at least according to the U.K. band’s current tour schedule, for a concert in Colorado Springs on June 5 at the Broadmoor World Arena. Tickets for the Firepower 2019 Tour stop, with opener Uriah Heap, are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. ($49.50-$69.50,

Start growing out your hair now for the April 1 Tesla concert at the Paramount Theatre, which will feature the (still) glorious-maned hard rockers known best for ’90s pop hits such as “Love Song” and “Signs.” Tickets are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. ($45-$78,

Along the way

It only seems appropriate that John Craigie is on a road trip when he takes my call. The California-born, Portland-based singer-songwriter is known as a modern-day troubadour, a traveling poet with comic flare, whose folk songs chronicle his journey through life and those he meets along the way.

“Most of it is from human interaction; I tend to find that the songs are either my stories or stories that I hear from somebody else,” Craigie says about his music. “I’ve learned that if you’re really honest with your audience and show them who you are, that’s the best you can do.”

His songs are mostly vignettes, flashes of humanity that tap into a deep folk heritage, speaking to the present moment in timeless fashion.

“It’s like a funeral out there/Don’t let the darkness break you my friends/There are so many of us/And only one of him,” he sings in “Presidential Silver Lining,” a song Craigie wrote in 15 minutes before a show right after the 2016 election, hoping to encourage the audience.

Then there’s “I wrote Mr. Tambourine Man,” which is Craigie’s latest release, recorded live with fellow singer-songwriter Jack Johnson.

As Craigie tells it on stage, he wrote the song after a night in a New Orleans bar where he met a guy who told him he wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but Bob Dylan stole it from him.

“I decided in that moment I would steal everything else he said and put it into my song,” Craigie says on the recording. “I figured if it worked for Bob, maybe it could work for me.”

Harmonica melodies and a rowdy drum beat surround the strum of acoustic guitars.

“When the apocalypse is over/I hope you like your job/Ain’t it a shame/Nobody sets anybody free anymore.”

Although he has several studio recordings, Craigie really shines on his live albums, which are reminiscent of Dylan’s sparse live recordings, but interspersed with spoken tracks, where Craigie channels the spirit of late-comedian Mitch Hedberg in both vocal cadence and intonation.

Emulating his folk heroes like Arlo Guthrie, John Prine and Loudon Wainwright, Craigie has also been inspired by humorous singers like Adam Sandler and New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords. For Craigie, it’s all about the dance between what his website calls “humorous storytelling and serious folk.”

“In the early days, I realized that if I was too funny and then I played a serious song, people would say, ‘What’s that?’” he says. “So that balance is necessary.”

Background conversation and radio, along with the sound of wind swirling around the car as it moves down the road, intersperse our conversation. It’s just before the Thanksgiving holiday and Craigie is with the folk group Shook Twins, traveling to an annual holiday show in Sandpoint, Idaho. He’s technically on break from his fall Keep it Warm Tour, during which he’s collecting new/gently used jackets, gloves, hats, scarves and socks, as well as donating $1 from each ticket sale to area nonprofits working with the homeless population. (Bridge House is the beneficiary for the Boulder show.)

“Portland has a large homeless problem, as do many large cities, and it’s always on my mind as it gets colder,” Craigie explains.

It’s something he can relate to, as he started his career as somewhat of a vagabond, traveling from city to city, unsure of where he might end up each night but hoping to book gigs along the way.

“One time I was playing in Winter Park at a bar, back in my bar days, and I remember I did the gig and then I was going to sleep in my Astrovan that had a bed in it,” he says. “There was a thermometer in it and it said minus 1 degree. For a California boy, I was just like, ‘We’re all going to die.’”

So he went back into the bar, and told the bartender he was afraid to sleep in his car. In turn, the bartender offered Craigie his keys, and said, “I have to stay here until closing time, but the guest room is third door on the left.”

The room was freezing when Craigie got there, so he just put on all of his clothes and crawled into bed. In the middle of the night, he woke up to snow all over the room. “I looked and the drapes were closed but the window had been left open. I actually would have been better off sleeping in my car,” Craigie laughs. “But I survived and that’s always been a thing for me.”

It’s hard to say what really came first, the wanderlust or the music. For Craigie, the two seem intimately intertwined, one almost impossible without the other, and both a way of life for the foreseeable future.

“When you like doing something, it’s hard to imagine not doing it,” Craigie says, without being clear if he’s talking about music, his vagabond life, or both.

“It’s what keeps me inspired, it’s what keeps giving me material,” he says, attempting to clarify. “And I’m not that into staying in one place for too long, I never have been.”

On the Bill: John Craigie. 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. Tickets are $21.

The post Along the way appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

Kidnapped and shot in Nashville, up-and-coming Denver pop star hits “reset on life” after terrifying hour

“Through and through.”

That’s how 19-year-old Elina Odnoralov describes the path of the bullet that pierced her left flank and exited her back as she strained to escape the assailant who’d kidnapped her in her car.

She repeats the expression a few times while chatting about the incident while seated at a coffee shop in Arvada. She borrowed it from one of the paramedics who found her behind the desk of a Nashville, Tenn., bank, her bloodied hand clutching the entrance wound.

Odnoralov has a habit of clinging to catchy phrases. She’s been writing songs since she was 7, the age that she and her five brothers started learning classical piano from their grandmother, who was an actress in musicals in Russia.

While her peers were scoping out colleges, Odnoralov committed to the artist’s life, transforming into pop singer Iolite in 2016. Eight months after she graduated high school, she moved from Denver to Nashville to chase her dream, come what may.

One terrifying hour in November has made her reconsider that.

“It’s almost like a reset on life,” she said, sipping from a metal mug on a Monday afternoon. “It changes everything.”


AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 4: Denver pop singer Elina Odnoralov, who goes by the name Iolite, was kidnapped, robbed and shot in Nashville last month. Odnoralov was photographed in Denver on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Odnoralov has been steeped in music since she can remember. Her siblings also have pursued music in some fashion. At 15, her youngest brother is a producer. Her older brothers, Ruslan, Yan, Nikita and Illarion, formed Everfound, a popular Christian rock outfit that signed to Word, formerly an imprint of Warner Music Group, in 2005. The whole family went on tour off and on for 10 years. Odnoralov, on her first tour at age 7, fell fast for the artist’s life.

“She would just sleep in merch bins,” Ruslan Odnoralov, 30, remembers, laughing. “As she grew older, we invited her at church to sing a song. She just got up without any kind of stage fright at 7 years old and sang.”

“I remember being 14 and being like, ‘I can’t imagine doing anything else,’” Odnoralov said.

She began performing as Iolite in 2016, when she found her sound in a song called “Blood Stream,” a scarred pop gem in the vein of New Zealand singer Lorde. She wrote it with Ruslan and Chase Martinez, a former member of Denver rock band Redlands and current producer in Nashville, who quickly noticed Odnoralov’s potential.

“First off, she has amazing vocals,” Martinez, 28, said. “But the maturity in her writing at a young age was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ People work a lot of years to get to where they can write things of this level.”


Ruslan Odnoralov concurs, noting his sister’s talent for crafting hooks and melodies on the spot in a writing session. “I’m a producer, so I work with a lot of top liners and it’s really rare that you see that.”

Odnoralov sent the song to 93.3’s Hometown for the Holidays competition. It ranked in the top three, earning Iolite a place on stage at the station’s annual concert. She lost — to Martinez’s Redlands, in fact — but the response affirmed that music was the way forward.

To capitalize on her success, she moved in with Ruslan and Yan, who’s now her manager, in January 2017. The move paid off: In the nearly two years since, she’s landed songwriting gigs for Nashville pop artists and has had success licensing her songs for commercials, including a placement alongside an Ariana Grande track in the trailer for the 2019 romance film “After.”

Still, for all the opportunity she’s found in Nashville, the grind of the industry left her feeling hollow. In a town brimming with musicians on her same journey, she somehow felt alone, lost in the music machine.

Early last month, she released a song that reflects that conundrum. “Lonely Bodies,” a come-hither club track, is a willful inversion of that attitude, evoking a dance floor filled with lonely people huddled around a common cause.

One week later, recovering from a gunshot wound, she’d find that community huddled around her.


AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 4: Denver pop singer Elina Odnoralov, who goes by the name Iolite, was kidnapped, robbed and shot in Nashville last month. Odnoralov was photographed in Denver on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Around 3:15 p.m. Nov. 14, Odnoralov had just finished babysitting for a friend. She was sitting in her car, sending a text, when the passenger door opened. She figured it was her friend, coming to give her something she’d forgotten in the house. Instead, she saw a man she didn’t know pointing a silver handgun at her.

“I think he was afraid,” she said. “He just kept telling me to drive.”

The man pulled up the location of an ATM on his phone. Odnoralov drove while he rummaged through the car, opening her laptop and phone.

He started asking personal questions — where she attends school and whether she has a boyfriend. “He was angry the whole time,” she said.

That anger nearly boiled over when Odnoralov pulled up to a Wells Fargo, which was swarming with people, including police officers. He told her to keep driving, threatening to hit her if she didn’t drive faster. Then, pushing the barrel of the gun to her temple, he threatened to kill her. He needed the money by 4 p.m., he said, and it was nearing the hour.

Odnoralov persuaded him to try a drive-through ATM. When she did, she parked the car just far enough from the curb that she’d have to open the door and step out to use it. As she did, she made a break for it.

The man held her by the back of her hoodie and swung her around to face the car. Odnoralov strained against him, eventually tearing away from him and the hoodie in the process. But not before he fired a round that hit above her hip.

“In the moment, I thought he shot me with something else because it didn’t hurt that bad,” she said.

Odnoralov ran inside the bank and laid down behind the teller counter, shouting for the employees to lock the doors. Hyperventilating, she called Ruslan, who went straight from a songwriting session to the hospital where she was taken.

“I walked in and she was sitting upright, smiling ear to ear,” Ruslan said, calling from a work trip in Los Angeles. “We hugged and she started crying.”

The bullet went “through and through,” missing organs and bones. She was released from the hospital that night.

Two days later, she posted her story to the public blogging website Medium. The music communities in Nashville and Denver responded immediately, sending gifts and notes of support. Ruslan started a GoFundMe page to cover her medical bills. It raised nearly $15,000 in a week.

“In this industry, you meet so many people and a lot of the times it’s a networking thing,” she said. “Going through this was mind blowing because I was wrong about that. I just realized that the music community really does care, that they’re my family.”


Though her wound is less than a month old, Odnoralov has found peace and perspective around the incident. Even in her Medium post, she expressed compassion for her assailant, reaching out to him directly.

“I want you to know that I may have been scared the second you opened that door, but after a few moments, there was peace and POWER inside that car and it was far greater than fear,” she wrote. “And now, I am surrounded by SO MUCH LIGHT AND LOVE.”

It may be cliche to say that a near-death experience will change your life. But it’s true for Odnoralov. Time is more valuable than ever. She’s spending the holidays with family in Denver, on a one-way ticket, for now.

Nothing is certain anymore. She’s considering moving back here and quitting music, counting the time wasted trying to promote Iolite against her love of singing and songwriting.

That love might still win out. In the last few days, she’s started processing her kidnapping the best way she knows how: her music.

“It’s more for me now,” she said. “I just feel called to pursue it. There’s so much beauty that can come out of this through music.”

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Colorado radio listeners vote to keep “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on air

A Colorado radio station polled its listeners, asking whether a popular holiday song notorious for its predatory lyrics simply must go. The answer is no.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” lives on at Colorado’s Christmas radio station KOSI 101.1 despite originally being yanked off the air.

The song, based on a duet in which a woman says she wants to leave the date she’s on and the crooning man refuses to let her go, features lyrics like the woman asking “Say, what’s in this drink?”

An Ohio radio station stopped playing the song, citing that listeners felt the tone of the tune didn’t sit well with the #MeToo movement that is sweeping the globe and bringing attention to sexual assault and harassment.

KOSI 101.1 followed suit on Monday after the station received similar complaints and decided to let listeners decide. Respondents to the online poll remained unbothered by the words that, admittedly, sound like a Tinder date gone awry.

The online poll generated more than 15,000 responses, and 95 percent of them voted to keep the tune rolling, KOSI 101.1 Program Director Jim Lawson wrote in a statement posted on the station’s website.

“We value the opinion of all our listeners and appreciate the feedback we received,” Lawson said. “While we are sensitive to those who may be upset by some of the lyrics, the majority of our listeners have expressed their interpretation of the song to be non-offensive.”

We have our answer to the most popular brunch in Denver, according to where you’ve been Lyfting

The annual list of Denver’s most popular Lyfted-to destination is out, and it’s settling a heated debate.

Snooze was the most Lyfted-to brunch spot in 2018, the ride share company found. Sorry Jelly, Sassafras and, well, just about every other restaurant that serves brunch. There’s always next year.

Yes, we know. The science is flawed. Capitol Hill is more densely populated, so more people walk to Jelly, right? And everyone who goes to the Lower Highland neighborhood’s Linger is just already there from the night before? No matter the reason, we’re just happy to hear that Denverites are ride-sharing to all those bottomless Bloody bars.

The Lyftie Awards, as the company likes to call them, recognizes the most popular destinations in cities across the country.

Here are all the 2018 Denver Lyftie Awards winners:

Most Visited Bar: Avanti Food and Beverage. That number is only sure to go up as it hosts the Miracle pop-up Christmas bar this season. Get a look inside here.

Most Popular Concert Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Here are all the 2019 shows we know about so far.

Most Visited Restaurant for Brunch: Snooze an A.M. Eatery

Late night: Lodo’s Bar & Grill

Most Visited Fitness Studio/Gym: 24 Hour Fitness

Most Visited Late Night Neighborhood: LoDo

Only In Denver: Union Station

Note: New users can use the code LYFTIES18 for $5 off of the first two rides to one of the winning destinations or anywhere across Denver

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PHOTOS: An Evening with Fleetwood Mac at Denver’s Pepsi Center

Fleetwood Mac made the first Pepsi Center stop of its current tour Monday night, and took the stage without longtime member Lindsey Buckingham, who parted ways with the band earlier this year.

The modified lineup, which will come back through Denver on Jan. 31, features Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood — along with new touring members Neil Finn of Crowded House and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell.

Setlists of the shows include all the hits including “The Chain,” “Little Lies,” “Rhiannon,” “Gypsy” and more. Even a tribute to one of Stevie Nicks’ favorite duet partners, the late Tom Petty.

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Hootie & the Blowfish + Barenaked Ladies = one of 2019’s biggest singalongs

Despite selling tens of millions of records during their mid-to-late 1990s heyday — and holding radios and department-store music playlists hostage for years after that — middle-of-the-road rockers Hootie & the Blowfish aren’t the type one might peg for a massive revival in the second decade of this fractious century.

But thanks to Hootie lead singer Darius Rucker’s ongoing success as a pop-country crossover artist, as well as the passage of time, which makes even things we used to mock feel familiar and respectable, Hootie is back with a vengeance.

Next summer the band will undertake its first tour in more than a decade, with a stop headlining the massive (17,000-capacity) Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre on July 11 with another ’90s-heyday artist, Barenaked Ladies.

“We’ve played with Hootie & the Blowfish a few times over the years, and it’s always been a good time,” said Barenaked Ladies vocalist/guitarist Ed Robertson in a cheeky press statement. “We’re thrilled they asked us to support them on this tour. I can’t imagine a better triple bill. Barenaked Ladies, Hootie AND the Blowfish?!! Sign me up! Wait, I’ve already signed up!”

Tickets for the all-ages Group Therapy Tour will cost $30-$129.50 and are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 via

The 44-city tour features a Citi cardmember pre-sale beginning today at 10 a.m. and running through 10 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6. Visit for details.

Fan club members of both bands can also access pre-sale: Hootie’s started today at 10 a.m., while Barenaked Ladies’ starts at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

Hootie, a two-time Grammy-winning group, also plans to release an album in 2019 through a new record deal with Universal Music Group Nashville — the same label-group where Rucker is currently signed as a solo performer, according to Rolling Stone.

Steven Van Zandt urges Colorado teachers to liven lessons with music

Teachers across Colorado traded their red pens for air guitars Friday night as a rock legend made his educator-targeted Denver tour stop with an academic opening act boasting the four R’s: reading, writing and rock ‘n’ roll.

Steven Van Zandt, better known as Little Steven when jamming with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band or gracing television screens on shows such as “The Sopranos,” thinks teachers are the some of the most underappreciated, underpaid heroes in the country.

“They’re on the front lines in a war against ignorance,” Van Zandt said after speaking with a group of Denver students interested in the music industry. “I think that fight is the most important right now.”

As Van Zandt ended his talk at the Fred N. Thomas Career Education Center Middle College of Denver on Friday afternoon, when he reminisced about the “renaissance” of the music industry he grew up in, students still weren’t sure what to make of him. Some mentioned that their parents loved him and clamored for a selfie. Another asked to try on Van Zandt’s splashy multi-colored coat that dripped with tassels.

“I’ve got a really weird career here,” Van Zandt told the students. “I’m a low-level celebrity. I don’t need the spotlight.”

Instead, Van Zandt has turned to activism.

To give back to the profession he heralds, Van Zandt launched a Teacher Solidarity tour across the country to introduce the free music-integrated curriculum from the education standard-aligned program he founded, TeachRock.

A few hours after speaking with students, Van Zandt went to his next gig in Englewood.

The Gothic Theatre was packed with educators torn between squealing over Van Zandt and listening to the workshop, where they learned TeachRock lessons.

They did both.

When the rock star took the stage mid-lesson, the teachers — moments before engaged in a lesson plan discussion, encouraging students to make musical playlists for historical moments — jumped to their feet, stomped and flashed rock ‘n’ roll hand gestures.

TeachRock leaders at the Gothic Theater said the Denver leg of their tour, which began in mid-October, was overwhelmingly the biggest crowd.

“We figured you could use a night out instead of at home grading papers,” Van Zandt said as the scholarly audience went wild.

Before a free concert put on by Van Zandt, leaders of the TeachRock movement presented lesson plan ideas to showcase Van Zandt’s vision of using music to engage students in an array of subjects.

The TeachRock site features about 140 lessons ranging from “Native American music from Wounded Knee to the Billboard charts: A document-based exploration” to “Everyday heroes: Beyoncé and United Nations World Humanitarian Day.”

Van Zandt said tour stops, which dot the U.S. through mid-December, were focused on areas where teachers had recently gone on strike or came close to it. In April, Colorado teachers walked out of their classrooms and protested at the state Capitol in the name of increased educational funding. In May, Pueblo teachers launched the state’s first teacher strike in 24 years, advocating for a pay increase and better benefits.

Kay Landon, an English teacher at Wheat Ridge High School, braved the bitter cold line to get into the concert venue partly for the fresh lesson plans she hoped would interest her students, but she did have an ulterior motive.

“I think Little Steven is a god, and I love him all the more for doing this,” Landon said.

Kim Colegrove, a Mountain Range High School art teacher in Westminster, was inspired by one of the lessons related to punk rock and protest art.

“I think what we’re learning tonight will excite my students because it’s exciting me,” Colegrove said.

Van Zandt not only has praise for teachers, but for the young people he’s watched benefit from his program’s lessons.

“This generation is different,” Van Zandt said. “They’re the fastest and the smartest, and they don’t want to learn something they’re going to use in the future. They want to learn something they’re going to use now. The same way we’ve been teaching isn’t going to work with these kids. Kids are into music. Give them something they want to learn.”

Fiddler Bridget Law, formerly with Elephant Revival, is playing a new tune

Beyond Bluegrass

By Kerry Parry

Fans of Bridget Law, a founding member of Elephant Revival, were bummed to see her departure from the band last year. That doesn’t mean they won’t play together, as evidenced by her recent Colorado performance with group members in October.

Law plans to join them, as well as other bands locally, but says she had to bow out of touring after 11 years in order to plant sturdier roots here. When asked how an artist could step off what seemed to be a pretty promising path, Law made it clear she has no intention of stepping away from music—she’s simply evolving.

The evolution of Law’s magical music and movement talent began as early as third grade during her education at The Denver Waldorf School. Teacher Chris Daring took her under her wing and into her family band where she honed skills as a violinist and fiddler, a difference Law explained as merely the style of music and how the instrument is set up.
“I’m a fiddler, really,” Law said. “I grew up as a fiddler, but I was never a virtuosic talent.”

Virtuosic or not, her performances are inspired. She dances with her fiddle, calling it a whole-body connection with her soul. While Elephant Revival could be categorized as bluegrass music, Law is currently performing with her husband’s band, Tierro, which leans more toward rock, and she says she doesn’t focus on just one genre.

In addition to her onstage work, fiddler Bridget Law supports women in art through a variety of means. (photo by Seth Shimkonis)

“I emulate different sounds all the time,” she explained, adding that she and her husband plan to stick close to Colorado to focus on expanding their family.

In addition to her onstage work, Law feeds her creative spirit playing a supporting role in many different artistic endeavors. She headed last year’s production of Sister Winds, an annual festival celebrating women in music, and has also been involved with Arise Music Festival, WinterWonderGrass Festival and Campout for the Cause.

Though she has chosen to leave Sister Winds, Law notes she plans to continue supporting women in art in some capacity.

“I just don’t know how yet,” she said. “Ten years from now I see more and more women playing. Music is a fairly progressive business and receptive to feminine energy.”

As for Law’s own future, besides having a baby and playing with Tierro, she’d like to create an even richer artistic community all around her, through both performance and supporting roles in the arts. Perhaps this means reviving Elephant Revival for five to 10 shows a year, while teaching strings at Waldorf and supporting the circus community of Boulder.

Yes, there is a circus community in Boulder.

After 15 years of ballet, Law had been involved with aerial dance, but had to back off because of injury risk. She still supports the community, including aerial dance group Frequent Flyers and circus performance troop Fractal Tribe. Law’s attraction to this art form likely echoes the sentiment audiences take away from seeing her live performances.
“I just love it when humans do badass stuff with their bodies,” she said.

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Rocky Mountain Public Media breaks ground on Arapahoe Square headquarters

Work has begun on a $34-million building that will be the future home of Rocky Mountain PBS, local jazz station KUVO and a host of other public media resources in Denver’s transforming Arapahoe Square area.

The forthcoming Buell Public Media Center will be the base of operations for Rocky Mountain Public Media, Colorado’s biggest member-supported multimedia organization and the parent company of KUVO (89.3 FM) and the local PBS affiliate (KRMA-Channel 6).

Funded through a capital campaign still seeking to raise another $3.5 million, the three-story, 63,528-square-foot facility will house studios, offices, community space and a ground-floor classroom where Emily Griffith Technical College and the city of Denver will offer classes focused on creative industries, according to a news release.

Amanda Mountain, Rocky Mountain Public Media’s president and CEO, said in a news release that partnering with the college and the city will help “bring a whole new level of community engagement and impact to our collective work to strengthen the civic fabric of our state”

The building is going in on the northwest corner of 21st and Arapahoe streets, just a few blocks from Coors Field in a portion of the Five Points neighborhood that is in the midst of a sustained flurry of new development. It is expected to be completed in early 2020.

Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ tailored for the Christmas season

It’s been 276 years, and people are still talking about Handel’s Messiah.

Of course, it’s one of the best-known and best-loved pieces ever written, but that does not make it immune to controversy. One thorny subject is that it has become the quintessential Christmas piece.

But Messiah was not written for Christmas, and only about a third of it has anything to do with Christmas. The rest takes the story through Easter and the Resurrection. The first performances were given in April 1742, during Lent, and most performances in Handel’s lifetime followed that pattern.

Many people consider performances of the entire piece during the Christmas season inappropriate. Conductor Cynthia Katsarelis is one of those people, but she has found a way to reconcile Messiah’s popularity at Christmas with its content. With the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, the Boulder Chamber Chorale and soloists, she will lead performances Dec. 1 and 2 of what she calls “a Christmas version.”

“We’re doing the Christmas section, plus,” she explains. In addition to the full Part One, which is the Christmas portion of the oratorio, “we use elements from Part Two and Part Three that illuminate why this birth is so important.”

In Handel’s day, the three parts were performed in concert, as three acts of a drama. “That might be a great way to do it for Easter, but for Christmas it’s possible to tell a coherent, beautiful, majestic and sublime story without going into three acts.”

Katsarelis used three main criteria in selecting musical numbers from parts two and three. The first is to present texts that add to the Christmas story. “What is significant is to tell the story,” Katsarelis says. “I put things together in parts two and three by scenes, so that it makes a coherent story.”

The scenes are smaller groupings of musical pieces within what Katsarelis characterizes as “basically an opera that’s not staged.” Each scene tells a separate part of the story, through a combination of recitatives, arias, duets and sometimes a concluding chorus. There is musical continuity within each scene, with momentum that builds from the first musical number to the last.

Another criterion was selecting pieces that were especially suitable for the four soloists — soprano Jennifer Bird, alto Leah Creek Biesterfeld, tenor Stephen Soph and baritone Adam Ewing. “They are so wonderful, and they’re wonderful together,” Katsarelis says.

Finally, she had to consider the key changes between sections. These transitions from one musical number to the next happen smoothly when the whole piece is played as written, but when sections are cut, new junctions occur that may sound awkward. “I have made sure that there’s nothing jarring,” Katsarelis says. “I find [the piece] incredibly flexible, and by taking things by scenes, it works itself out pretty well.”

She is not the first person to abridge Messiah in just this way. As a violinist, Katsarelis has played dozens of Messiah performances, many of them with the second and third portions cut down to place the focus on the Christmas story. And in her research, she discovered that Leonard Bernstein did such a performance with the New York Philharmonic in 1956.

“You can go into New York Philharmonic digital archives and see his score,” she says. “I didn’t know about the Bernstein [performance] before. He and I didn’t necessarily come to exactly the same conclusions, but close.”

Pro Musica Colorado is not a historical instruments orchestra, but Katsarelis says they perform “on modern instruments with historically informed sensibilities. It’s scaled to the venue (Boulder’s Mountain View Methodist Church). “We’ve got a choir of 40,” Katsarelis says, “which is about the scale of the original Dublin premiere.”

One aspect of this performance that is absolutely authentic is that it is a benefit concert. The very first performance in Dublin was a charity concert for prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer Hospital and the Charitable Infirmary. Later, Handel arranged for Messiah to be performed annually in London to benefit the Foundling Hospital, which stills owns a copy of the score in Handel’s hand.

The Boulder performances will include a food drive for Community Food Share. Audience members are encouraged to bring non-perishable, packaged food items, such as canned goods, cereal and pasta to be collected at the performances.

And in case you are wondering, yes, the “Hallelujah” Chorus will be included, although it has been moved from the end of Part Two to the very end of the performance. That “may be controversial” for purists, Katsarelis says, “but it sums up the feelings of the story.”

Besides, there is no better way to end the Christmas story than with that blockbuster choral number. “It will knock everybody’s socks off,” Katsarelis says. “They must come to hear that.”

On the Bill: Pro Musica Colorado and Boulder Chamber Orchestra present Handel’s Messiah. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, Mountain View Methodist, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder.

The post Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ tailored for the Christmas season appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

Hugh Jackman will sing, dance his way into the Pepsi Center

Triple-threat actor, singer and dancer Hugh Jackman will bring his dashing one-man show to the Pepsi Center next year, and there’s no confusion about what he’ll be offering.

The 50-year-old Australian, who has played characters ranging from X-Men’s Wolverine to “Les Misérables” ex-con Jon Valjean, and earned Broadway’s respect with a Tony for “The Boy From Oz,” is undertaking a world tour under the banner “The Man. The Show. The Music.” — a revival of his previous one-man show, according to Variety.

Beginning with a dozen dates across Europe and the U.K. on May 13, Jackman will work his way toward a 22-city North American leg that starts in June — including a July 10 show at 7 p.m. at the Pepsi Center. Tickets for the AEG Live-produced concert, prices for which are not yet available, are on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 via

The tour promises to feature Jackman performing hit songs from films such as 2017’s “The Greatest Showman,” “Les Mis” and others from the Broadway and film catalogs, accompanied by a live orchestra. Tunes from “Oklahoma” and “The Boy From Oz” may also make an appearance, Variety said.

Jackman this year appeared in the Jason Reitman film “The Front Runner,” in which he played Colorado Sen. Gary Hart in the midst of his 1980s infidelity scandal. In an interview with The Know earlier this month, Jackman said Colorado holds a special place in his heart — even if the Colorado-set scenes in “The Front Runner” weren’t filmed here.

“The modern reality of filmmaking has got a lot to do with rebates from state governments, and it’s a shame, but hopefully people don’t notice that,” he said, adding that he did try to channel Colorado’s pioneering spirit.

“I’ve been there several times and I love it. I love the people, and there’s also a spirituality to the place that I recognize when I go to the outback of Australia. It has that majesty to it.”

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For its 20th birthday, Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium gets a facelift

The building at 1510 N. Clarkson St. has lived many lives since it became the Fillmore Auditorium in 1998.

Now, owner Live Nation wants to give it one more. To mark the Fillmore’s 20th anniversary, the promoter is in the process of transforming the venue into a boutique performance space, and redefining its ethos in the process.

It’s apt timing for Live Nation. While it’s still the largest concert promoter in the world, it’s been outpaced by AEG Presents in Denver. And AEG will take another swipe at Live Nation’s market share next summer, when it finishes work on the Mission Ballroom, a state-of-the-art music venue on North Broadway that will be comparable in size to the Fillmore.

For its part, Live Nation has snapped up two independently owned Denver venues — Summit Music Hall and Marquis Theater — and acquired a portion of Emporium Presents, which books Levitt Pavilion, in 2018.

“We’ve made a bunch of moves to focus on the Live Nation angle of things in Denver,” Live Nation Rocky Mountains president Eric Pirritt said. “There’s always going to be a variety of rooms, and we want to take our path. We did that with the Marquis and Summit, and now we want to make sure this place is the best experience people could possibly have.”

The effort started innocuously three years ago when Live Nation Rocky Mountains VP of operations Sean O’Connell sought to weatherproof the 111-year-old single-pane window on the building’s west side. “That kickstarted our minds of what else can we do,” O’Connell said.

On a quiet Wednesday afternoon this month, four Live Nation employees, including Pirritt and O’Connell, walked around the venue to point out the invisible and obvious fruits of that effort so far.

While two men on the far end of the venue ran fiber-optic cable through the ceiling, Pirritt walked to the back edge of the soundboard. Clad in a ball cap and a dark Patagonia hoodie, he bisected the floor with his arms, forming an imaginary cross-section. “About here,” he said, stopping, “is where the vibes kind of started to … you wondered (about the sound). It’s a big room.”

Before it was a music venue, the Fillmore Auditorium was a roller rink. (To those who’ve been stuck behind that line referenced by Pirritt at a show before, it sounds like it might still be.) The promoter set in on remedying that last year, opting for a powerful new sound system from Colorado’s own Brown Note Productions and installing three tiers of risers to cozy-up the crowd experience.

The difference, Pirritt contends, is night and day. “I’ve been in a lot of clubs across the country and I’ll put what people can see now in these tiers up against any sight-line.”

Other tweaks are less obvious. The Fillmore now slings slices of Marquis Pizza, for example, and brought its actual marquee into the LED 21st century. Before, it would take “a couple of hours” to change sliding plastic letters of the old marquee to reflect the new acts, O’Connell said. “In the winter, it was brutal.”

The venue’s facelift has been a long time coming. Since James Brown performed the first large-scale concert in what was then Mammoth Events Center in 1960, the building has only undergone superficial rearrangements. Until recently, the Fillmore’s concertgoers have in some respects been the victim of that history.

When Clear Channel, whose entertainment division spun off into Live Nation in 2005, opened the venue in 1999, it moved the stage from its east side to the north side. But the bathrooms flanking the stage stayed put, placing the Fillmore’s largest bank of restrooms backstage. Fans could still access them, but they had to know where and when (they were off-limits during set breaks) to use them. “It was pretty counter-intuitive,” O’Connell said.

In fact, in the customer satisfaction surveys that Live Nation collects after concerts, no issue garners more complaints than the bathrooms. Last year, promoters set in on installing new ones in what were once hockey locker rooms below the gallery, digging up lead pipes and walled-up stairwells in the process.

“There’s a ton of stuff we’ve done to modernize the venue a bit but not overdo it because there’s a lot of history here in Denver,” Pirritt said. The majority of the renovation should be completed in 2019.

The building that’s now the Fillmore Auditorium opened as a roller rink in 1907, back when street trolleys still trundled down the length of neighboring Colfax Avenue. The site would also house an electric car workshop, a warehouse and a flea market before returning to its former skating glory, this time as an indoor ice rink. The current Fillmore has remnants of its rink in preserved wall sculptures of pirouetting skaters hung in its Mammoth Lounge and, in one awkward case, halfway into the ceiling of its new kitchen.

Bill Graham Presents bought Mammoth Gardens in 1998. Graham, a capo in the formative years of concert promotion, made it an outpost of the Fillmore in San Francisco, one of the country’s seminal rock clubs that, with help from bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors, served as the beating heart of the psychedelic rock movement.

Clear Channel acquired Bill Graham Presents before the venue opened in 1999. As Live Nation, it would  expand the Fillmore franchise to seven locations across the country, with an eighth and ninth on the way in New Orleans and Minneapolis next year. It shares its original’s famed wall of photos and chandelier-strung ceiling, but little else. With a 3,700-person capacity, Denver’s Fillmore is twice as big as the one in San Francisco, and the largest of all the franchises. (Live Nation’s corporate offices in Los Angeles couldn’t be reached to comment on this story.)

Live Nation is hoping to further differentiate Denver’s Fillmore from its siblings — and other venues around the city — in its next 20 years. It’s in the process of drafting a chic lounge near stage right, complete with phone booths under the stairs and a bespoke cocktail bar. It’s brought on Sean Kenyon, owner of Williams and Graham, to design a custom cocktail menu for the bar, which will open next year.

The venue is also looking to expand its on-stage offerings, aiming to host everything from symphonies to comedy shows in 2019. “Diversity is really important to the longevity of the venue, whether that’s diversity in music or in entertainment,” Pirritt said. “That’s the theme — to mix up the vibe of the venue and reimagine it for the next 20 years.”

For Pirritt, who was canvassing posters when he started working for the Fillmore Auditorium as a member of Bill Graham Presents’ street team, the evolution is as much a personal point of pride as it is professional. He was here at the Fillmore’s first show, a night with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, and estimates he’s caught “five or six hundred” shows at the venue.

The Fillmore Auditorium is chasing down some impressive milestones of its own. In the coming months, it will have hosted 2,000 different artists and 2.7 million fans. Live Nation is planning a surprise for the venue’s 3 millionth person. Pirritt estimated they’ll cross the threshold sometime near the beginning of next year. “We’re getting very close.”

While “millions and millions” of dollars have gone into the building’s update, Pirritt said, a new coat of paint can only do so much for a music venue in this town.

“Having brand new carpet is great. But giving a band the same stage that James Brown and The Who played on?” That, you can’t buy.

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Here’s how much Rolling Stones tickets cost for their Broncos Stadium at Mile High concert

With the fan pre-sale off and running at 10 a.m. this morning, passes for the Rolling Stones’ May 26 concert at Broncos Stadium at Mile High are moving fast — some wait lines showed 2,000-plus people, while others moved directly to the virtual window at exactly 10:01 a.m.

Now that we’ve had a peek at the prices, the tickets are actually (somewhat) cheaper than we expected: a general range of $49-$499, with special pit areas (more or less up against the stage) going for about $1,600 apiece.

I snagged four right off the bat in the general admission field area, although I was unable to buy more when I tried again. Despite having a good place in line, mis-typing the security code on the credit card flagged it via American Express and shut it down.

Check out these screenshots of the pricing page, which gives you an idea what the show will cost when it goes on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 (following another pre-sale at 10 a.m. MT tomorrow). A number of tickets have been reserved for Friday so that they remain available.

Tickets for the AEG Rocky Mountains-promoted show are available via

A secondary market site, Barry’s Tickets, was already selling $375 tickets (Section 104, Row 38, not including taxes or fees) for prices ranging from $1,098 to $1,458 as of 10:40 a.m. on Nov. 28.

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KISS announces final tour will stop at Denver’s Pepsi Center

Are you ready to rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day?

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OK, now that that’s out of our system: KISS is coming to Denver’s Pepsi Center on Sept. 12, Live Nation announced on Monday.

The classic rock staple added the show as part of the second leg of its final tour, aptly named “End of the Road.”

Set that alarm, because some of those tickets will go on sale as early as tomorrow. The KISS meet-and-greet experiences will be available Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. through, according to Live Nation’s release. The KISS Army fan club presales will begin Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 9 a.m., and  GA tickets will go on sale Monday, Dec. 3, at 10 a.m. at or 303-893-TIXS.

The VIP meet-and-greet includes meeting the band, a photo opp, access through a special entrance, an autograph, a $100 merchandise voucher, crowd-free shopping and your own on-site host. To give you an idea, the price for the Vancouver experience is $7,500 for one person. The ticket range for the show as listed on Ticketmaster is $62-$538.

There are a total of six presales listed on Altitude Tickets.

The iconic group of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley formed in the 1970s, and quickly became known for its lavish stage shows over its 45-year career, complete with guitar licking and pyrotechnics and — of course — the ever-replicated face makeup and outfits. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

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“This will be the ultimate celebration for those who’ve seen us and a last chance for those who haven’t. KISS Army, we’re saying goodbye on our final tour with our biggest show yet and we’ll go out the same way we came in … Unapologetic and Unstoppable,” the band said in a release.

Better start practicing that tongue wagging and air guitar.

Looks like Dead & Company is planning a return to Boulder’s Folsom Field for fourth straight summer

It appears the Dead will rise again at Folsom Field next summer, as the University of Colorado let the cat out of the bag on Dead & Company’s plans to play Boulder for the fourth straight year.

The band — featuring John Mayer and three of the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead — has not announced details of a summer 2019 tour. But CU’s Athletic Department posted event and ticketing information online last week for a pair of Folsom Field concerts, scheduled for July 5 and 6, to be co-presented by promoters AEG Live and Live Nation.

The page on the website listing the 2019 shows was posted sometime last week, according to Google search results, and was still visible on Sunday before being taken offline.

Tickets for Dead & Company’s Folsom Field dates were listed at $60.50 to $150.50 on CU’s website, with a series of pre-sales beginning Dec. 4 leading up to the public on-sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 8.

When asked about the Dead & Company concerts, CU spokesman Ryan Huff said in an email, “We plan to host concerts in summer 2019, but we are not ready to announce anything yet on bands or dates.”

Dead & Company has played two-night stands at Folsom Field each summer since 2016, when the band ended a 15-year dry spell for live music at CU’s football stadium. Through the 1970s and early ’80s, Folsom Field had been a major concert venue, hosting the likes of the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Van Halen and, on several occasions, the original Grateful Dead.

Since CU resumed allowing live music at Folsom Field in 2016, no other band has been booked to play the campus stadium. Dead & Company last played there this past July 13 and 14.

The presumed 2019 Dead & Company shows are set for the Friday and Saturday nights of the long Fourth of July weekend, which means Colorado rock fans can celebrate Memorial Day weekend with the Stones and spend a long Independence Day weekend with the Dead.

Dead & Company features singer-guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, all of the Grateful Dead, plus singer-guitarist Mayer — a pop star in his own right — as well as bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti.

Gifts to warm the host’s heart

By Kendra Nichols

We love home gifts for the holidays because, functional or decorative, they can either be put to use for holiday parties (think serving stands, champagne glasses and audio equipment) or simply add to that cozy “hygge” feel we’re looking for during the winter (think fuzzy blankets, candles and plants). This year, The Washington Post’s Home section editors and writers selected the latest and greatest gifts for every budget and any living situation.

CB2’s Clarity bowls


We can think of so many uses for these porcelain bowls: catchalls in an entry hall, serving bowls for nuts and candy, even everyday jewelry storage. The three options in the smaller size – white, black and gold – will fit any color scheme (the large option is available in white only). And at these prices, you could mix and match a few.

Cookut’s easy cocktail set


For a cocktail-loving friend who’s tired of novelty shot glasses and shakers, we like these colorful stirrers. They aim to make mixology easy with portioned amounts of each ingredient shown right on the stick – no Googling necessary. Recipes include white Russian, sex on the beach, piña colada, margarita, tequila sunrise and Cuba libre.

Blue Q’s Most Likely to Microwave oven mitt


Even the worst cooks need an oven mitt. (Also helpful: a sense of humor.) This gift lets you tease them and help them at the same time. For those who are more skilled in the kitchen, Blue Q has mitts with other cheeky sayings, such as “Hot Hot Vegetarian Action” and “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.”

Ikea’s Förädla serving stand


Serving accessories can get pretty pricey, but this porcelain stand, with three tiers for pastries, cheese or fruit, feels like a steal. And as Ikea products go, this one should be easy to assemble, even for the least handy among us.

Good Company Wares’ small natural canvas hanging planter


We like this warm, updated take on a hanging planter. The colorful canvas planter hangs from an oiled leather strap secured with brass rivets (an optional wooden peg is an extra $8). Also included: a plastic planter and saucer inside to keep the canvas dry. Other planters are available in different sizes and prints, many with a Southwestern feel.

Magic Markings Art’s personalized house portrait Christmas ornament


Virginia Beach artist Cathie Carlson specializes in custom keepsake gifts for weddings, housewarmings, births and holidays. These ornaments are hand-painted from a photo, with the back left blank for text. Note: Carlson needs two to three weeks to work on a custom ornament, so leave as much time as possible.

Sagaform’s Hold adjustable vase


This simple, elegant vase, designed by Pascal Charmolu, has a genius feature: The gilded steel frame can be adjusted higher to make room for taller flowers or lowered over the glass base. We think it could become any household’s go-to vase.’s Swedish dishcloths

From $6,

Assemble a collection of designs or pick your favorite and pair it with a nice dish- and hand-soap set. We’re partial to the Swedish dala horse dishcloth, but there are plenty from which to choose, including holiday-specific designs. These cloths are made of compostable cellulose and are marketed as a more sustainable alternative to sponges.

Peleg Design’s Crocomark


It’s a crocodile. It’s a bookmark. What more can we say? This cute little guy would make a fun stocking stuffer or accessory to a book gift.

Smeg’s retro-style two-slice toaster


A toaster isn’t normally what you’d call a fun gift – unless it’s an adorable mint green, and delightfully retro in its styling. This simple but luxurious model has six browning levels, three preset programs and a removable stainless steel crumb tray. (It also comes in several other colors.)

Couleur Nature’s tea caddy


Hosts and hostesses will find plenty of uses for this metal caddy with eight glasses. Fill the glasses with flowers for a creative centerpiece, or layer trifles in the glasses for a brilliantly presented dessert course.

Melanie Abrantes Designs’ gourmet salt cellar box


Melanie Abrantes is a Bay Area artist who uses a lathe to handcraft wood and cork bowls, plates, planters and stands. This set, which pairs two of her walnut or cherry salt cellars with three infused California salts, comes in a lovely plywood gift box.

Z Gallerie’s Cheers champagne flutes


These fun yet elegant flutes, made of hand-blown glass, offer a toast in six languages: French, Swedish, Gaelic, English, German and Italian. Pair them with a bottle of your favorite champagne so they can be appreciated rapidamente. Note: They must be hand-washed.

Serax’s juice straws


As consumers and companies have started rejecting plastic straws, reusable versions have been popping up all over. We love this elegant glass set, with a luxurious feel perfect for using and even displaying at home. The set of four comes with a cleaning brush. (For thicker drinks, go for the larger “smoothie” size for $23.)

Haws’s 10-ounce plant mister


Houseplants are trending, and we think any new plant parent will appreciate this brass mister, which can keep plants healthy and even look good sitting next to them. Britain-based Haws has been known for its watering cans since the 19th century.

Host’s Freeze cooling pint glasses


After a couple hours in the freezer, a cooling gel in the walls of these acrylic cups will keep drinks cold, and the built-in silicone sleeves will keep hands comfortable. Pair this set of two with a six-pack of your favorite beer or a bottle of fancy lemonade. Also available: wine, martini, whiskey and margarita cups.

Now Designs’ Denman apron-dishtowel


This simple linen apron doubles as a dishtowel and has a classic design that’s sure to please home cooks and crafters alike. We like the Bengal stripe pattern best.

PB Teen’s Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Bluetooth speaker


Anyone can appreciate a stylish, gilded Bluetooth speaker. But fans of the Harry Potter books and movies will especially appreciate this subtle nod to the series. The 4-by-4½inch smartphone-compatible speaker can play music and answer calls wirelessly and has a rechargeable battery.

Alt-rock icon Dean Ween pitches marijuana-friendly concert venue in downtown Denver

Dean Ween has big plans for Denver.

The guitarist, best known for his work in the iconic alt-rock band Ween, hopes to open a Denver concert venue where the audience will be allowed to use marijuana — without hiding from security.

The venue would be named Dean Ween’s Honeypot Lounge and would be located near Coors Field, according to chief operating officer Michael Polansky, who announced the plan at a city meeting on Monday.

“I think cannabis and music make total, total sense together,” Polansky told The Denver Post. The venue would host music, comedy and film-related events, with Dean Ween serving as entertainment director and performing “in various incarnations.”

“We think that we can offer a unique kind of musical experience for Denver and the world,” Polansky said. The venue also would operate as a consumption site during the day, with educational and wellness programs, he said.

A representative for “The Deaner,” also known as Michael “Mickey” Melchiondo Jr., confirmed to The Denver Post that he’s part of the venue plan. The guitarist’s repertoire includes “I Smoke Some Grass (Really Really High),” a trippy ’90s B-side.

The organizers hope to open the Honeypot’s doors by April 20, the stoner holiday, Polansky said. It would be among the first businesses of its kind in the United States.

The group hasn’t yet applied for the city license that would allow marijuana consumption in the venue, according to city licensing spokesman Eric Escudero. And the organizers haven’t announced a location either.

The organizers plan to apply within a few weeks for the license.

The current rules include some strict limits on marijuana use at Denver businesses: Under state law, a marijuana venue could not serve alcohol. The audience likely would be limited to vaping and edibles. And they’d have to bring their own stuff, since social consumption businesses can’t sell THC products.

“Social consumption is the next frontier,” Pulansky told City Council members.

Denver is one of the first in the nation to host a “social consumption” permit program, approved by voters in 2016. But the city only has one social-weed venue so far — a coffee shop that connects to a dispensary. Some have criticized the limits on locations, while others are frustrated by the state law that forbids indoor smoking.

“Allowing room for innovation will alleviate the problem,” Polansky added.

Another proposed business, an arcade named Vape and Play, hopes to open early in 2019 at 1753 S. Broadway, according to co-owner Taylor Rosean.

“I’m extremely thrilled,” Rosean said of the Honeypot announcement. “We heard rumors that another private interest was looking around, and I was super excited that it was someone that is intending to open and do it right. They have such an amazing background in music. I think they’re really going to contribute something unique in this developing market.”

Matt Van Sistine, a board member of the Ballpark Collective neighborhood group, said he had just heard about the Honeypot proposal, but hadn’t talked to the organizers. Honeypot Lounge would have to prove that it has neighborhood support to get a permit.

“At this point, I’d rather know more about ’em,” he said. “The challenge is, who’s behind it?”

The Rolling Stones’ ‘No Filter’ tour coming to Denver

It’s official, Rolling Stones announce 2019 concert at Broncos Stadium at Mile High

The Rolling Stones will return to Colorado for the first time in 14 years next May when the band brings its much-anticipated “No Filter” tour to Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.

The Stones on Monday announced the itinerary for their 13-date tour of U.S. stadiums, a trek that opens April 30 in Miami Gardens, Fla., and will hit Denver on May 26, before wrapping up June 1 in Chicago.

A Rolling Stones banner hangs on ...
Eric Lutzens, The Denver Post
A Rolling Stones banner hangs on the north east side of Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Nov. 4.

Tickets will go on sale for all shows at 10 a.m. local time Nov. 30, according to the music magazine, though no pricing information has yet been announced.

The band will hold a special pre-sale beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Nov. 27; fans are asked to register on the Stones’ website for access.

“It’s a thrill when we play stadiums in the States,” frontman Mick Jagger said in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine, which first announced the dates. “The energy is always amazing!” Guitarist Keith Richards added: “I’ve always loved playing the states. It’s a great crowd.”

The band has been teasing its widely anticipated 2019 U.S. tour for a couple weeks, first with the banner hung at Mile High Stadium over the weekend of Nov. 3 and 4, followed by a performance by the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders wearing the Stones’ logo at Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium on Nov. 4.

Last Thursday, the Stones’ unfurled tongue appeared on the electronic billboard outside MetLife Stadium — home to the New York Giants and the New York Jets — in East Rutherford, N.J., according to the Bergen Record newspaper. That same morning, the band’s Twitter account sent out a short animation of the sun, also emblazoned with the Stones’ logo, rising in front of the Statue of Liberty, all to the tune of “Paint It, Black.”

The Stones’ May concert will be the band’s first performance in Colorado since playing the Pepsi Center on Thanksgiving night in 2005. And it’s the band’s first stadium concert in Denver since the Voodoo Lounge Tour rolled into the old Mile High Stadium on Sept. 15, 1994. The Stones also played in Denver in 1999 and 2003, but those were arena dates.

We will update when we have more ticket information.

The Rolling Stones’ 2019 “No Filter” tour:

April 20: Miami Gardens, FL @ Hard Rock Stadium
April 24: Jacksonville, FL @ TIAA Bank Field
April 28: Houston, TX@ NRG Stadium
May 7: Glendale, AZ @ State Farm Stadium
May 11: Pasadena, CA @ The Rose Bowl
May 18: Santa Clara, CA @ Levi’s Stadium
May 22: Seattle, WA @ CenturyLink Field
May 26: Denver, CO @ Broncos Stadium at Mile High
May 31: Washington, D.C. @ FedExField
June 4: Philadelphia, PA @ Lincoln Financial Field
June 8: Foxborough, MA @ Gillette Stadium
June 13: East Rutherford, NJ @ MetLife Stadium
June 21: Chicago, IL @ Soldier Field

Four-hour Grateful Dead documentary to be released Friday on DVD

A great many Deadheads will be grateful with the Friday release, on DVD and Blu-ray, of the Grammy-nominated  Grateful Dead documentary — “Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story Of The Grateful Dead.”

The career-spanning documentary on the iconic American jam band, formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, Calif., arrives on the home video market Friday, more than a year after the four-hour film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It will be available on Amazon.

Directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev, whose credits include “Fighter” (2000), “The Tillman Story” (2010), and “Happy Valley” (2014), the documentary features never-before-seen concert footage, vintage interviews, and other materials from the Grateful Dead’s vaults. Martin Scorsese served as executive producer on the long-awaited project, which had been in the works since 2003.

AOMA Sunshine Films
Long Strange Trip

Founding member of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, died in 1995 and the band disbanded. The documentary includes recent interviews with surviving band members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.

The film includes “some of the most remarkable, candid, and interesting footage in existence of the Grateful Dead and we’re thrilled to be releasing the entirety of this wonderful historical document,” said David Lemieux, the band’s archivist, in a news release.

Among the rare footage is a clip of founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, along with his band mates, at a Warner Brothers Records party in London. “Pigpen surrounded by suits!” Lemieux said. McKernan died in 1973.

A double-DVD release of Long Strange Trip is $24.98 and a single Blu-ray is $27.98. A deluxe edition featuring unreleased bonus content will be available exclusively from on Friday for $26.98 and on Blu-ray for $30.98. Production of the deluxe edition is limited to 6,500 copies each on DVD and Blu-ray.

The documentary has been available for streaming on Amazon Prime since June of 2017. It had a one-night nationwide theater screening May 25, 2017, followed by limited theatrical runs in New York City and Los Angeles.