Singer R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse

CHICAGO — R. Kelly was charged Friday with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, after decades of lurid rumors and allegations that the R&B star was sexually abusing women and underage girls.

Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, confirmed to The Associated Press the charges had been filed against the 52-year-old Grammy winner but declined to say the specific number. Media reports said there were 10 counts, at least some involving and underage victim or victims.

A message seeking comment from R. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, wasn’t immediately returned.

Over the years, Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.

Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, is one of the top-selling recording artists of all time, with hits such as “I Believe I Can Fly,” and his arrest sets the stage for another #MeToo-era celebrity trial. Bill Cosby went to prison last year, and former Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein is awaiting trial.

Kelly was charged a week after Michael Avenatti, the attorney whose clients have included porn star Stormy Daniels, said he recently gave Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of the singer having sex with an underage girl. It was not immediately clear if the charges were connected to that video.

In 2008, a jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges over a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the young woman allegedly depicted with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand. Kelly could have gotten 15 years in prison.

Legally and professionally, the walls began closing in on Kelly more recently after the release of a BBC documentary about him last year and, last month, the multipart Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.” Together they detailed allegations he was holding women against their will and running a “sex cult.”

After the latest documentary, Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, said she was “sickened” by the allegations and asked potential victims to come forward.

#MeToo activists and a social media movement using the hashtag #MuteRKelly called on streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts. And protesters demonstrated outside Kelly’s Chicago studio.

Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, said earlier this year that his client was the victim of a TV hit piece and that Kelly “never knowingly had sex with an underage woman, he never forced anyone to do anything, he never held anyone captive, he never abused anyone.”

Avenatti said his office was retained last April by people regarding allegations of sexual assault of minors by Kelly. He said the video surfaced during a 10-month investigation. He told the AP that the person who provided the VHS tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video.

Despite accusations that span decades, the singer and songwriter who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side has retained a sizable following. He has written numerous hits for himself and other artists, including Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. His collaborators have included Jay-Z and Usher.

Kelly broke into the R&B scene in 1993 with his first solo album, “12 Play,” which produced such popular sex-themed songs as “Bump N’ Grind” and “Your Body’s Callin’.”

Months after those successes, the then-27-year-old Kelly faced allegations he married 15-year-old Aaliyah, the R&B star who later died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Kelly was the lead songwriter and producer of Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album.

Kelly and Aaliyah never confirmed the marriage, though Vibe magazine published a copy of the purported marriage license. Court documents later obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times showed Aaliyah admitted lying about her age on the license.

Jim DeRogatis, a longtime music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, played a key role in drawing the attention of law enforcement to Kelly. In 2002, he received the sex tape in the mail that was central to Kelly’s 2008 trial. He turned it over to prosecutors. In 2017, DeRogatis wrote a story for BuzzFeed about the allegations Kelly was holding women against their will in Georgia.

Pro Musica Colorado looks backward, forward and outward

The next concert by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra will look backward, and forward, and outward.

The program, titled “Classical Evolution,” will be presented in Denver on Friday, Feb. 22, and Boulder on Saturday, Feb. 23, and, in a new venture for Pro Musica, in Longmont on Sunday, Feb. 24.

The concert will feature works by J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn, and the world premiere of a new work by Boulder-based fiddler/composer Max Wolpert. Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct the concert, which will feature harpsichordist Jory Vinikour as soloist.

Bach’s piece on the program, the D minor Harpsichord Concerto, looks back in the sense that it probably derived from an earlier, but now lost, concerto for violin. Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 22 (“The Philosopher”) looks back by starting with a movement in an earlier style from the Baroque period, and forward in the later movements by anticipating styles of the composer’s later symphonies.

And Wolpert’s Baroque in Mirror, a concerto for harpsichord and small orchestra, looks back to some revered folk performers and composers from Baroque times, outward to music of different traditions, and forward by bringing them into a contemporary setting.

“The idea was to look at the Baroque period from the other side,” Wolpert says. “I’m a fiddle player, and a lot of our legendary figures were around at that time. So we’re looking at figures from the traditional music world, and paying homage to their music.”

The first movement was inspired by Daniel Dow, a Scottish fiddle player of the 18th century, and the third by John Perry, a blind harpist from Wales of the 18th and 19th centuries. The second movement, however, had a more serious source.

“It was going to be a tribute to Abraham Caceres, a Jewish composer from Amsterdam,” Wolpert says. “The day I sat down to write was the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. Hearing that, the movement became a piece in mourning.”

As a fiddle player, Wolpert admits that he had quite a bit of help from Vinikour learning to write for the harpsichord. “There was quite a bit of ping-ponging back and forth,” is how Vinikour describes the process.

“I think I got where Max was coming from, [and] I had some ideas how to use the harpsichord. But the harpsichord is really just one part of the texture. It’s not a traditional concerto pitting one solo instrument against everybody else.”

Vinikour says that Bach’s D-minor Harpsichord Concerto — the best known piece on the program — stands apart from the composer’s other keyboard concertos. “There are complex passages, chordal writing [and] multi-voice writing, where in the other concerti we are looking at very simple writing,” he says.

“In the D minor Concerto, Bach uses much of his arsenal as keyboard virtuoso. The harpsichord never stops, even when the orchestra takes over, so it’s a very challenging work.”

The final work on the program is by a composer that Katsarelis especially loves, and whose music Pro Musica has performed often. “It’s completely impossible to do too many Haydn symphonies,” she says.

For this concert Katsarelis selected one of Haydn’s earlier symphonies, No. 22 in E-flat major, composed in 1764. It was named “The Philosopher” by an Italian copyist in the 1790s, probably because the slow first movement features a somber dialogue between French horns and two English horns over a steady “walking” bass line in the strings.

The slow tempo and the dialogue between instruments evoke a deep conversation. The movement also harkens back to earlier styles, with the steady bass line and the Baroque sounding texture between the voices. Finally, the movement’s philosophical quality comes from the unusual use of English horns instead of oboes, which creates a darker and more reflective sound.

But after this subdued opening, the remainder of the symphony goes very quickly and in a very jolly mood. “After the Socratic dialogues of the first movement, it’s off the to pub,” Katsarelis says. “As it should be!”

ON THE BILL: “Classical Evolution” — Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with music directors Max Wolpert and Cynthia Katsarelis; Jory Vinikour on harpsichord.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St., Denver. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder. 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont. Tickets: app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=90559

The post Pro Musica Colorado looks backward, forward and outward appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

Knocking down dominoes

On Jan. 6, Jeff Kassel and Jake Lobel looked out over the crowd at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The electronic dance music producing duo known as MTNMen had just wrapped up their set, opening for iconic electro producer Steve Aoki — a pretty amazing feat for a couple of University of Colorado students.

“It was a pretty unreal experience,” says Kassel, a marketing entrepreneurship major at CU. “It was the first time that we got to perform a live set instead of on computers for such a large crowd.”

In their four years playing together as MTNMen, Kassel and Lobel have since seen their names posted on local billboards and printed on flyers all over town promoting their shows at local venues such as the Fox and Boulder Theater. They’ve crossed state and international lines to perform and dropped original singles that have gotten over 230,000 plays on Soundcloud and almost 30,000 on Spotify.

But their story starts long before CU, when the two were just second graders at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Newport Beach. While they went to different middle and high schools, their shared interest in board sports, both on land and in water, kept them close; however, communication inevitably diminished over the years. It was not until they both were accepted to CU in 2015 that their expedition into music began. They would proceed to kick off freshman year as roommates in a Sewall dorm room with just a couple homemade beats and a DJ deck that Kassel brought with him.

“Jake tried all the stuff I brought with me to school, and he was good at it and he liked it,” Kassel explains. “Things just naturally took off from there.”

Once the two artists realized the strength in their dynamic and how it allowed them to maximize their musical abilities in a way that resonated with other people, they figured they should put a name on their talent. After coming up with 75 different potential names and writing them out on paper, they decided to get some outside opinions.

“We had people cross out and circle names that they thought sucked or that they liked and MTNMen was one that the majority of people seemed to be drawn to,” Lobel says. “At first I didn’t particularly like the name myself, but once people started saying how they could really visualize the big letters being on a line up, it really stuck with us as a name that could represent us well.”

It was the beginning of an odyssey.

“When we were freshmen, there weren’t that many people our age at CU who were DJing like we were and that were also so accessible, so we were getting all these requests from fraternities to come perform at these huge parties and we had no competition,” Kassel explains. “And when we realized that we weren’t fighting to be heard and people actually wanted us, we started devoting more time to it.”

Devoting more time to music paied off for Kassel and Lobel — literally. They started making commission off of their shows in no time and eventually were able to pay for their bills with no additional help from other jobs.

“I think we honestly realized our potential to make this a real thing when we made our first $5,000,” Kassel says. “That’s when we thought, OK, we can pursue this as something that pays the bills and also gives you such a high when you are doing it. It’s so much fun to make music, play it on big speakers and see people react to your expression in a positive way. Making that a job is a dream.”

Money is not the only marker of success for these two young artists. Their devotion and ingenuity when it comes to making music has been steadily rewarded with bigger opportunities and better connections. They started out playing shows in front of 400-person audiences. Next thing they knew, they were lighting up the stage at CU’s annual WelcomeFest on Ferrand Field, overlooking the majestic Flatirons and a crowd of 2,000 people. Now they can say that their sound has traveled across land and sea as they have performed multiple times in Mexico, different states all over the country and have even made it as far as Ibiza, Spain.

“It’s like dominoes — you gotta just keep knocking them down one after the other,” Kassel says.

Shane Stolz
MNTMen

Despite their airtight friendship, making music as a team creates the potential for disagreements along the way. Each has their own taste and preference for music.

“I’m more a fan of more indie instrumental vibes, while Jeff likes hard dubstep and dirty beats,” Lobel explains. “But then we’re on the same page about a lot of other things, like we both prefer singers on our tracks and think that it’s more artistic when lyrics are involved. It’s all about finding a balance.”

By choosing to overcome their differences to find a happy medium, they are able to incorporate their own styles in their melodies. This resilience is evident in the evolution of MNTMen’s music. When they first started, they were fully committed to creating dubstep; however, three years later, they are changing the direction of their craft and attempting to embody an “indie future base” feeling instead.

“We used to be the ‘DJ kids’ that we wanted to be, going crazy on stage and playing all these shows and having fun,” says Kassel. “But after being able to get real life experience by living in Los Angeles together for three months over this past summer and solely focusing on music, we were able to get more into the artistic and musical aspect of things and also see how other successful artists got to where they are now by using super original beats to create something no one has heard before.”

Their new song, featuring fellow SoCal musician Griff Clawson, is set to be released on Feb. 27 and represents a huge milestone for the duo. Clawson attended the same elementary school with Kassel and Lobel when they were younger. They reconnected after the singer direct messaged MTNMen on Instagram inquiring about the potential for a musical collaboration.

After being full time DJs over the summer, the two learned more about working with live instrumentation and have been able to incorporate that into their new work. They are replacing synthesizers with live percussion instruments to generate a more acoustic feel. Lobel and Kassel say this new track is the most important in their catalog  because all the lyrics are inspired by their actual lives. They point to the “surfing vibes” that they incorporated in the new track, a musical nod to their shared passion.

Lobel and Kassel seem to be most adamant about staying true to themselves during this learning experience. They want to go through the motions of producing a track that depicts the essence of their souls and the magnitude of their personalities.

“Our overall goal is to be recognized for the qualities of our personality that we try to put in our music,” Kassel says. “We hope that it translates to the audience as something enjoyable and relatable, yet something that screams authenticity and originality — something that we can call our own.”  

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Dierks Bentley and his Seven Peaks Music Festival are returning to Colorado

Country star Dierks Bentley and mega-promoter Live Nation are officially bringing the Seven Peaks Music Festival back to Buena Vista over Labor Day weekend.

The 2019 event will take place Aug. 31-Sept. 1, although few other details are available at this point. Fans can sign up for the festival’s newsletter at sevenpeaksfestival.com, which will grant them access to a pre-sale code to buy tickets before they go on sale to the public.

Returning ticket-buyers will have the first chance at passes with an “Alumni Pre-Sale.” More information including lineup and ticket details will be available in the coming weeks, Live Nation said.

MORE: Dierks Bentley’s flip phone has a Denver number and more things we learned ahead of his Seven Peaks Music Festival

Last year’s debut of the three-day, two-stage music and camping event featured performances from pop-country, bluegrass, roots and Americana acts Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne, Clint Black, Sam Bush, The Cadillac Three, Elle King, Dan + Shay, Del McCoury Band and more.

Fans traveled from 49 states and Australia to attend the event, according to a press statement from Live Nation, adding a crucial, destination-worthy element to the first-year music experiment.

Live Nation did not disclose ticket sales, revenues or attendance numbers, but with other major festivals pulling out of Denver this year (including The People’s Fair, Velorama and Grandoozy) it’s clear that the company thinks a second year is a profitable idea.

“I love that element of failure being possible. It’s like making a first record,” Bentley told The Denver Post last year. “That’s where all the good stuff is.”

Even without hard numbers, Seven Peaks easily brought tens of thousands of country-music fans — a relatively under-served market in Colorado — to an unpopulated swath of the state about two hours southwest of Denver. Bentley previously said he’d be happy if 10,000 people showed up the first year, although the event was designed to draw about three times that.

“The festival wound up being a no-brainer for attendees, too, with its smooth three-day run being full of jaw-dropping natural sights, Instagram-worthy backdrops, football-watching at booths that echoed sports bars — and, of course, music,” Rolling Stone wrote last year.

Colorado Symphony might leave downtown Denver, but Boettcher Concert Hall is done either way

The Colorado Symphony is free to look for a new home on — or off — its current site at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, following an agreement with the city this week that effectively condemns its current home at Boettcher Concert Hall.

Planning for a new concert hall is already underway, as both parties have said there is no future for the roughly 2,700-seat Boettcher. A specific timeline has not been set, the symphony said in a written statement Wednesday.

The agreement hands the Colorado Symphony Association the freedom and potential resources to build on recent successes, including increased ticket sales, collaborations with pop and classical stars, younger audiences and three consecutive years of financial stability.

A new and better concert hall would encourage this growth, the symphony believes.

“It’s only gotten worse and it has to come down, and nobody argues about that,” Jerry Kern, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Symphony, said of Boettcher. “So the question is: What do we do when it comes down? Now we’ve gotten to the point where we can move ahead with that question, and we’ve been freed to seek out developers for a new site.”

The memorandum of understanding, as it’s called, allows the symphony to move forward without waiting on the city’s Next Stage plan, the ambitious, multimillion-dollar overhaul of the Denver Performing Arts Complex that could add residential towers and other amenities to the 12-acre complex — but could also potentially drag on for years and hamper the symphony’s growth plans.

The memo also ensures access to $16.7 million that remains from a 2007 bond issue, provided the symphony adheres to certain terms — such as using the money by Sept. 30, 2023, and building its new concert hall within the city limits of Denver.

Boettcher, built in 1978, has for years been decried as flawed and inadequate, and neither the symphony nor Denver Arts & Venues — the agency that owns and operates the Denver Performing Arts Complex — wants to put resources into a renovation.

Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file
Outside Boettcher Concert Hall in 2014.

Named after philanthropist Claude K. Boettcher, the concert hall was the country’s first in-the-round symphony hall, a design choice meant to give all patrons proximity to the stage. It sits next to some of Colorado’s largest, most prestigious performing arts venues, including the homes of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado and Colorado Ballet.

However, the benefits of being grouped with the city’s other top-tier performing arts organizations are outweighed by not controlling the site, Kern said. Poor acoustics, too many seats, problems with the women’s restrooms, and design issues that violate 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act also need to be fixed immediately.

“We still have some older people who like going to listen to music, and you can watch them with their canes and oxygen tanks trying to get up steps that don’t have a handrail,” Kern said. “On top of that, we’re viewed by the city as a user of its facility, so we use the city’s concessionaires, but we get no part of their revenue. … If we want to put on shows without our own musicians, we have to pay a higher level, and we pay a seat tax on everything. We don’t have it 24 hours of a day, and we don’t have it every day because the city promotes events there as well, or rents it.”

Most successful regional orchestras in the United States, from Nashville and Minneapolis to Kansas City, all have their own homes, Kern added.

Losing the symphony to another site is not a particularly attractive idea to the city.

“Certainly, Arts & Venues and the city have always been working toward the goal of having the symphony stay at the arts complex, and we hope that they will,” said Ginger White, who recently replaced Kent Rice as executive director of Arts & Venues. “It’s such an important cultural institution, not just for the city but for the arts complex itself. But at the same time, we recognize that the symphony wants to also be in control of their own destiny, and some ways to do that would be for them to consider places off the campus.”

Talks between city and symphony officials about a new (or renovated) home have been ongoing since at least 2007, and not always smoothly. That’s been complicated by the symphony having to deal with righting its finances after a 2011 review found that the organization was on the brink of financial disaster.

Stumbling blocks continued: On Sept. 18, 2014, the symphony was ready to announce plans for its $40 million Build a Better Boettcher renovation plan. Before it could hold a scheduled press conference at noon that day, the city issued a media release about Mayor Michael Hancock’s appointment of an executive leadership team meant to rethink the entire Denver Performing Arts Complex.

“We were never satisfied with the results of that,” Kern said.

As recently as 2016, one of the city’s plans included demolishing Boettcher and building an outdoor amphitheater in its place. Symphony officials criticized that in terse language.

“To even propose the demolition of a beloved community asset reflects a lack of both vision and leadership,” read a formal statement released by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, as it was known at the time.

The symphony’s rising fortunes of late have lessened some of the tension. High-profile collaborations and innovative, venue-spanning performances have brought everyone from Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming to The Flaming Lips to the symphony — and the symphony to venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the FirstBank Center.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the Symphony Association had an operating surplus of nearly $200,000, on $12.8 million in revenue. Other income recorded outside its operating budget resulted in a net positive balance of $2.4 million, according to a financial summary provided by the symphony.

Last year, the city cut the organization some slack in two lease deals that provided the nonprofit with nearly free office space and cheaper rent at Boettcher, with an estimated $166,000 in savings per year, according to a previous report from The Denver Post.

The city recently retained Keen Independent, a market research firm, to update its findings for its Next Stage plan at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Meetings between Keen officials and cultural organizations will begin at the end of this month, White said.

“We’re trying to give the symphony the opportunity and the resources to be able to explore some different alternatives that include the Next Stage, but could be outside of the city’s master plan,” she said. “And we’re of the same point of view with Boettcher: it’s a facility beyond its useful life, and it would require a lot of money and gymnastics to make it work.”

Over the last six months, the symphony has looked at building a new hall on land owned by the Temple Buell Foundation next to the Cherry Creek Mall, according to the Denver Business Journal. But Denver officials balked at letting the symphony tap the bond money from 2007 and the effort went belly up, the Business Journal reported.

The symphony is also considering a parcel at 1245 Champa St., across from the Colorado Convention Center. But it’s dependent on the historic preservation status of the building that currently sits there (occupied by The Commons on Champa).

“We didn’t want to be precluded from looking elsewhere for a new home for the symphony, because to us, time is of the essence,” Kern told The Denver Post this week. “What we like about (the new memo) is that people are going to show up and start talking to us.”

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Feeding the world

“How do you like your latte?” Andrew Love asks from across the kitchen island as I settle into a plush couch just a few feet away in the living room of his home in South Boulder. “We really only have one option, so I hope you like almond milk.”

Amber Lily, his partner in life and often in music, laughs from the living room floor where she’s quietly picking through scales on an acoustic guitar. The house — a split level with lots of natural light but not a lot of furniture — is the pair’s new homebase. It’s a big change for the roots-and-reggae blending musicians, who, up until three weeks ago, had called the Hawaiian island of Kauai home for the past seven years.

Kauai is a mother of sorts to both Andrew and Amber, a place that nurtured them and taught them and, when they were ready, sent them out into the world feeling loved and supported. Kauai gave them a musical family, a strongly rooted value system and a deeper connection to the earth — a progenitress in every sense of the word.

Amber called the Big Island home through part of her childhood, and Andrew traveled to the smaller island of Kauai during a time of deep personal exploration as a young man right out of Berklee College of Music.

For Andrew — borned and raised in Savannah, Georgia — living in Hawaii was a part of rewriting his story, as he puts it. In 2012, a musician friend invited Andrew to come to the island and record his first album in a small studio on his friend’s cacao farm. Andrew jumped at the chance.

“I flew out there and spent all my money, did a crowdfunding campaign and flew some of my favorite musicians out there, and we made a record called The Real Thing,” he says. “I actually made three records off of that crowdfunding campaign.”

“Which is one of the themes of his whole story,” Amber adds. “Use what you have, make it work, trust the process, use your last dollar, put it into your art, make good music from one microphone in a garage. That’s how we’ve made most of our records.”

For more than a decade, Andrew has performed and recorded music under the pseudonym Tubby Love, a high school nickname that doesn’t reflect the lean man sitting in the living room today.

But back then, Tubby Love — Tubs to friends — was 100 pounds heavier. 

“I just took [the nickname] and I made it my shield and it became a part of my story,” Andrew says. The first step in rewriting that story “was shedding that layer [and losing 100 pounds]. Now I’m ready to shed another layer of that, which is the actual name, Tubby.”

His upcoming studio album, The Deep South Sessions, will be released as Andrew Love.

“It’s [about] letting go of old stories that have shaped me,” he says of the transition. “I will always be Tubs to a lot of people, a lot of people who love me dearly, and I have expressed a lot of authenticity with [that name]. But [the transition to Andrew is] for me to return to my authentic center and to get to be something more than a character that I’ve created.”

Hawaii, like any good mother, helped Andrew find himself. Hawaii guided him to his musical family — people like Nahko Bear, Dustin Thomas, Trevor Hall and Paul Izak — and toward the socially and spiritually conscious messages that would become the cornerstone of Andrew’s music.

But most importantly, Hawaii guided Andrew to Amber.

“Her entire family, they changed my life,” Andrew says. “They helped me get in touch with real food, with growing food. That helped me step into more of my actual self, physically, spiritually, mentally, all of it.”

Amber lovingly describes her parents as “dream chasers” who fled East Coast suburbia in search of something beyond “traditional mother/father roles.”

“They jumped around looking for the spot,” Amber says. “They were looking for community, for a place that felt right. And eventually my mom birthed her community. She felt like she didn’t find her people until she had her children. We grounded in Kauai. We found a place where we could live the values that we believe in.”

It was actually one of Amber’s brothers who met Andrew first, while Amber was still studying at Pitzer College in East Los Angeles.

“I fell in love with her brother first,” Andrew says with a grin.

“My brother told me, ‘You have to meet this guy, Tubby Love; he’s the best musician I’ve ever met,” Amber says.

The two finally met in 2012.

“I’d always thought of what it would be like to harmonize with a man, to fall in love that way,” Amber says. “And we sang together and it was… wow. I’d never felt anything like that. Just two literal vibrations coming together. It was ecstatic. Fast forward a year or so in and out of seeing each other, and finally we were both on Kauai. I moved there after I graduated, and we had a moment of openness in our lives and again, it happened through a night on a porch singing together and at the end of a song we were like, ‘We just made love.’ We didn’t touch each other. It wasn’t even about each other, but it was through music, through sharing our most vulnerable instrument, the voice, which has the power to share the depth of our soul that we are aware and unaware of. That kind of sent everything catapulting forward. When you experience something that real, that profound, it’s hard to forget it. So we oriented our lives toward growing that feeling, wanting to share it.”

Taylor Whatsnext

Their lives were simple on Kauai, but not in the mainland way. Amber’s family had just gotten some land to farm on, but there was nothing there yet but a shipping container that Amber used as a house. She worked on a nearby farm, and Andrew would come and visit.

“I loved it so much that I stayed and unpacked suitcases for the first time in eight years or so,” Andrew says, smiling down at Amber, who’s still sitting in the living room floor strumming the guitar. “I remember that. I remember getting a dresser for the first time.”

They lived small, Andrew says, and it changed the way he saw the world. Amber’s belief that the personal is political, a byproduct of her education at Pitzer, rubbed off on Andrew and found its way into the music they began to make together.

Andrew’s most recent album, 2017’s Waves, takes a direct shot at the overreaching power of the global fossil fuel industry on “Keep the Oil in the Ground,” and asks listeners to practice what they preach on the spoken word track “Walking Each Other Home.” Amber’s most recent album, last year’s Wild, tackles some of the same ideas with a personal touch, using her experience as a young woman to frame topics like social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

“Everything is political — that’s just the way it is,” Amber says. “If we lived in a truly free world where greed and hate and insecurity and the need for power wasn’t ruling things, maybe we could choose to sing about things as we want. But it’s a privilege to not be involved. People who are trans, people of color, women in certain situations, they live in anxiety on the daily. So to not think about that is irresponsible. I feel like it’s absolutely our responsibility as musicians to talk about that.”

“With knowledge comes great responsibility,” Andrew adds. “Some say with power, but I think knowledge is power. It is a big responsibility when you start to uncover that and realize that a lot of what’s wrong with the world comes from a lack of awareness.”

Together with musicians like Nahko and Trevor Hall, Amber and Andrew have contributed to a soundtrack of sorts for the growing movement centered on social consciousness and environmental sustainability. They spent years making names for themselves — together and separately — at like-minded festivals such as Colorado’s homegrown ARISE Festival, where the pair found themselves overwhelmed by the support that greeted them at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland.

Taylor Whatsnext
Andrew Love and Amber Lily on the main stage at the 2018 ARISE Festival in Loveland, Colorado.

“I feel [ARISE] really plugged us in here with the community,” Andrew says. “At the end of our second set at ARISE, it was the most insanely loud encore I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

It caught the attention of Colorado-based New Age composer and producer Dik Darnell, who eventually convinced the young musicians to move away from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the middle of the contiguous United States.

“I don’t see Dik Darnell as the key to our success or even as someone that holds all the answers for us or is going to make us the greatest record of all time and then we’re going to break into the mainstream,” Andrew says. “But he does give me a drive to dream bigger and to allow myself to envision that for myself and take responsibility for that.”

Success in a capitalist system is complicated for any artist interested in maintaining the integrity of their art, and Andrew and Amber are no different. But of course they want to grow successful and — dare we say it? — go mainstream.

“I think that the mainstream is just looking for the next thing, and so we’re here to be the Trojan horse and really infiltrate and reach the largest amount of people possible,” Andrew says. “I don’t think that is selling out. I think that is a great service to the world. I feel like there are a lot of hungry people out there who have been fed food that’s been devoid of nutrients.”

“In every sense of the word,” Amber adds.

“I want to be that food sonically for the world,” Andrew says. 

Catch Amber Lily on tour with Ayla Nereo and Elijah Ray on Saturday, March 30 at Fox Theatre in Boulder. Andrew Love’s new album, The Deep South Sessions, will be out later this year.

ON THE BILL: Andrew “Tubby” Love and Amber Lily — with Bridget Law and Tierro Lee. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder. Tickets are $20-$25.

The post Feeding the world appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

El Ten Eleven

Chalk it up to good luck or the benevolent hand of Providence, the SoCal duo El Ten Eleven landed safely in Philadelphia (see what we did there?) just in time to miss the polar vortex a couple of weeks ago. Tim Fogarty, a native of Pittsburgh not easily intimidated by stupid-cold weather, found some time with us just before their evening soundcheck at The Foundry there. (The vortex had moved on to cryo-punish the Maritimes.)

We traded notes about Pittsburgh and Cleveland, both proud citadels of Rust-Belt defiance and world-class potholes, and for which we both feel some long-distance nostalgia, and to which neither of us have any desire to move back. Maybe for a steak sandwich at Primanti’s, but that’s a long way to go for a sandwich, even in good weather.

But… music. Approaching 17 years as a working duo, El Ten Eleven is currently trekking the colonies in support of their seventh (or 10th, depending on who you ask) album, Banker’s Hill. Fogarty and guitarist/bassist/soundscapist Kristian Dunn continue their improbable and relentlessly engaging cross-pollination of house, ambient, neo-prog and electronica; shimmering and cascading curtains of sound draped across mid-tempo, sometimes double-jointed rhythms, pulsing drones rising from subterranean nether-worlds, lithe and whimsical odes to forgotten pleasures, musical subtitles to imagined visuals of dystopian alien worlds. At once heavily digitalized and deeply organic, the heart that beats at the center of El Ten Eleven’s music is both warmly human and provocatively androidenal. 

Best cuts here include the title track, a piece Dunn composed for a neighborhood in his current city of San Diego, the marching neo-prog certitude of “Reverie,” which marks its sub-composition break with a broad, “Baba-O’Reilly”-esque cadence, not at the end, but craftily in mid-song, and the skittering chase-scene charge of “Three and a Half Feet High and Rising.” There’s an endearing quality to this music, that the middle of a song doesn’t necessarily validate its beginning, or its end, as if a ghostly train-of-thought drifts throughout, subverting its own precision. The hidden hand of anarchy extends to their live shows.

Fogarty more or less agrees, when asked how, after 10 (or seven) albums, the music ages.

“I don’t think there’s anything we have that sounds dated. Maybe sounds, samples or whatever that we’ll update. There are pieces that have gotten more complex over the years.

“I remember there was a time when we were going to play the first record in its entirety, and we were like, there’s so many parts where there just isn’t a lot going on. So, I thought, this part here, I’ll play an electronic bassline while I’m playing the drums. Just to challenge ourselves. Stuff like that.

“One example is ‘My Only Swerving’ [from their debut album], which we’ve been playing forever and ever. And we’ve probably had 10 different endings to it live.”

But while the band is a steady-working live act, their unique approach has made them a somewhat problematic festival act, though they’ve played a lot of the big ones.

“It’s cool, because it’s not like people don’t get it, we’re just not like the midnight party act, it kind of doesn’t come across that great at 4 in the afternoon, it’s not as dramatic as it would be with lights and the whole thing. We’re not really a festival band.”

But at heart, these two are deep into their own musical fabric, and after the getting-the-press-stuff-right has worn off (Fogarty insists he doesn’t really care if someone calls them ‘math rock’ anymore, even if that dog-end of music-journo speak is stupid and wrong), it’s still a bit of fun for them when they get handed some new “you sound like” mashup.

“Nah, if people say that, I just shrug and say, ‘I dunno.’ I get that you gotta call it something. We’ve been out with Joan of Arc, and Tim from Joan of Arc came up to us one night and said, ‘You guys are like ZZ Top meets New Order, and if I said that to either band, they’d be OK with it.’”

Really?

“I’ve heard a number of those over the years. One was either Radiohead playing Daft Punk, or Daft Punk playing Radiohead.”

Well, alright then.

In closing, we asked Fogarty if he had any musical guilty pleasures — you know, stuff he likes to listen to that would appall his fans.

“I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or not, but I’ve had the song ‘Friends in Low Places’ stuck in my head.”

That’s, uh, Garth Brooks.

“Yeah, I’m singing it in my head every day, all day long. For at least a week and a half. I’m like, get this out of my head.”

ON THE BILL: El Ten Eleven — with Corsicana. 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, foxtheatre.com. Tickets are $10-$17

The post El Ten Eleven appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

Despite major cancellations in 2019, Denver festival scene still seeing success

A Taste of Colorado, Denver’s 36-year-old food festival held at Civic Center park, could have skidded off the map last year after it pulled an unexpected, 180-degree turn.

“We needed a revamp, and it’s really important for a community-focused festival like that to refresh itself,” said Kaylin Klaren, public events manager with the Downtown Denver Partnership, the producer of A Taste of Colorado. “We took the traditional model, which we had all seen for so long, and really flipped it around.”

That was no small turn, given that Taste has typically attracted an estimated 500,000 people over its four-day, Labor Day weekend run, according to organizers. And if it crashed, it could mean losing an important piece of Denver’s cultural identity, given that its historical inspiration stretches back to 1895 (when it was called the Festival of Mountain and Plain).

But rebuilding the festival from a free, one-size-fits-all event to a more streamlined offering — in this case, by shedding a day and revving up the live-music draw with national acts such as LeeAnn Rimes, Smash Mouth and REO Speedwagon — propelled Taste further than it expected.

“Last year was a huge success for us,” said Klaren. “We did the same amount of business and saw the same amount of people in three days as we did in four, which meant less up-front costs in terms of staffing, hours, load-in and load-out. We also had less of an impact on the city in terms of shutting down streets.”

While Klaren declined to share the festival’s budget or revenue, it’s easy to believe that a revamp helped A Taste of Colorado’s fortunes. Not only did vendors and attendees return in the same numbers, but USA Today nominated A Taste of Colorado this week as one of top 10 best food festivals. Online voting for the winners continues through March 11 and, as of press time, A Taste of Colorado was ranked No. 3 among all North American food festivals — four spots ahead of Aspen’s star-studded Food & Wine Classic, which was No. 7.

“It’s been interesting watching what all these other festivals are doing, and it really validates all the reasons why A Taste of Colorado made the changes we did last year,” Klaren said.

What the other festivals are doing — including the upstart Grandoozy and Velorama festivals, and the early 50-year-old People’s Fair — is pulling out of the city. The three major, mainstream events will not have a presence in Denver for 2019, and there’s no guarantee any of them will come back in 2020, even with Grandoozy and the People’s Fair stated intentions of doing so.

Produced by Superfly, which puts on the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands music festivals, Grandoozy drew an estimated 55,000 people to Overland Park Golf Course last year for what many attendees thought was a slick, national-quality music gathering, with electric performances from Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine, Stevie Wonder and many more. But the cancellation of Grandoozy’s counterpart in Phoenix — Lost Lake, also produced by Superfly — was not a good sign, especially since Lost Lake had already announced several acts for its second year.

In January, Superfly announced Grandoozy would not return to Denver in 2019.

Velorama, which combined the Colorado Classic cycling race and performances from bands such as Modest Mouse, Wilco and Cold War Kids, attracted tens of thousands and took over large swaths of the trendy River North neighborhood in its two-year run. But like music-specific festivals, combining a otoriously difficult-to-monetize cycling race with other logistical issues (long lines, complaints of shortages) likely played a role in organizers pulling back to focus solely on the bike race.

“By pivoting the Colorado Classic to become a women’s standalone pro bicycle race, we can fulfill that mission without the need for Velorama,” producer RPM Events Group said in written statement last month.

The People’s Fair — a free, community-focused event put on by the nonprofit Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN) for more than four decades — had in 2017 revamped its format with a new production company (Denver-based Team Player) and other changes that organizers hoped would stabilize the financially spiraling festival.

They did not, so CHUN pulled the plug on the 2019 version last week.

So what went wrong?

“There are very different reasons for why these events are taking a hiatus in 2019, and I don’t think it represents a trend,” said Jill Thiare, communications and outreach specialist with the city’s Office of Special Events. “Our office was formed in 2014 due to a significant increase in the number of requests (for events), and we haven’t seen a huge increase or decrease since that time.”

Thiare, whose office worked with all of the aforementioned events, coordinates with festivals on locations, permitting, public safety, street closures and other concerns. She said requests for events on public property in Denver last year numbered about 700 — the same as in years past. The office does not track the annual number of public events on private property.

“If People’s Fair wants to come back in 2020, they may or may not be first in line to get the park on that weekend,” Thiare said of the reservation process for Civic Center park, which also hosts large-scale festivals such as PrideFest and Cinco de Mayo. “It’s first-come, first-served.”

Denver’s festival scene is in no danger of going down in flames, despite all the attention the spectacularly failed Fyre Festival (in the Bahamas) has gotten in recent months, said Steven Schmader, president of Boise, Idaho-based International Festivals & Events Association.

“Denver’s been very active in our industry and has stayed on the cutting edge,” he said, noting that the Mile High City won his organization’s World Festival & Event City Award in 2012. “There are niches that are getting hit a little harder for some, like music festivals — which we call the big-box stores of festivals, since they’re a dime a dozen these days and have become vulnerable. But all events need to revisit themselves from time to time, and (Denver) has been working hand-in-hand with its festivals.”

From security fears of lone shooters to finding new revenue streams through digital partnerships, festivals have been forced to adapt or die in recent years. On the other end of the spectrum, the proliferation of neighborhood block parties and other small events — which require little planning or resources, but may still need city permits — has kept some would-be attendees away from big, pricey, generic events, Schamder said.

“It used to be about, ‘How do you build a more creative parade float?’ And now we’re having conversations about, ‘How do you keep your audiences alive?’ ” Schmader said, referencing increased awareness of mass shootings and terrorist violence at public events. “Festivals also used to be the favored children of cities, and now they’re in competition for tax dollars and attention with other events. I’ve seen some that went from not paying for police to all of a sudden getting a bill for six figures. How do you survive that?”

In the case of the People’s Fair, bad weather at the free outdoor festival, declining revenues, declining attendance and other factors combined to push the it out of CHUN’s hands for the first time since it was founded in 1972. Organizers have also cited the proliferation of entertainment options in Denver’s rapidly growing urban core.

“In 2016, we were closing in the red every year for roughly five years,” said CHUN president Travis Leiker. “It became a liability because we recognized we were operating at a loss, and 80 percent of our revenue came from (The People’s Fair). So that’s why we transferred responsibility of the production to Team Player.”

However, CHUN and Team Player dissolved their partnership prior to this year’s event, Leiker said, and since CHUN can’t put the festival on by itself, it’s on hiatus for 2019. (Team Player did not respond to requests for comment.)

“The challenge, of course, is the sustainability piece, the profitability piece and the capacity for human capital at these organizations,” Leiker said of his nonprofit, which holds forums with elected officials and advocates for residents in Capitol Hill. “We’ve been in the black the past couple years, and we’re seeing historic increases in membership-based revenue.”

That’s good for CHUN, but Leiker isn’t sure if the People’s Fair will return in 2020. If it does, he’s considering moving it out of Civic Center park, among other options, to scale it down to a more manageable size.

“The People’s Fair started in a school parking lot at East High,” he said. “Is that something we should be looking at going forward? I think it is, and other festivals are certainly doing the same thing.”

A Story of Resilience: Ariana Grande’s comeback album “thank u, next”

When I found out that Ariana Grande released her latest studio album thank u, next on the morning of Feb. 8, I was standing in below-freezing weather at a north Boulder bus stop on my way to a conference in Boston. I was utterly shocked at the news, given how recently Grande had released her…

The post A Story of Resilience: Ariana Grande’s comeback album “thank u, next” appeared first on CU Independent.

Diana Ross reveals 2019 Red Rocks Amphitheatre show hot off her Grammy performance

Legendary soul singer Diana Ross will return to Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 22, promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains announced this morning.

With about a month to go until her 75th birthday, the former Supremes leader and Motown native is coming off of her “Diamond Diana” celebration at the 61st Grammy Awards over the weekend.

Ross, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, received a standing ovation upon taking the stage to perform “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “The Best Years of My Life.” Her dapper, 9-year-old grandson also turned heads when he introduced her performance with a short speech celebrating Ross’ career.

Tickets for Ross’ all-ages, summer concert at Red Rocks are on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 15 through axs.com. They will cost $46-$251 and are available by calling 888-929-7849 or visiting axs.com.

Tickets will also be available at the Denver Coliseum box office 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and require a Flash Seats account (via the Flash Seats app).

Ross’ current gig is a series of shows at the Wynn’s Encore Theater in Las Vegas, which continue through Feb. 23.

Watch Olympic snowboarders, bluegrass and experimental bands for free in Vail this month

The annual Burton U.S. Open snowboarding competition announced its musical lineup Monday for its free four-night concert series in Vail at the end of February.

This year’s bands include eclectic and experimental band tUnE-yArDs, Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass, the Texas trio Khruangbin and Brooklyn-based Turkuaz.

The concert series starts Wednesday, Feb. 27, and run through Saturday, March 2.

The annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, now in their 37th year, is free and open to the public. Athletes who will be competing this year include Jamie Anderson, Red Gerard and Mark McMorris.

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Female acts, rap songs win big at the 2019 Grammy Awards

LOS ANGELES — Women returned at the Grammys on Sunday as female acts won album of the year and best new artist, while rap also triumphed, with Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” becoming the first rap-based song to win record and song of the year.

Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” picked up album of the year, and Dua Lipa won best new artist.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Musgraves said. “I am very thankful. Winning doesn’t make my album any better than anybody else in that category.”

Gambino was the night’s big winner, picking up four honors, including best music video and best rap/sung performance.

Drake surprised the music world when he emerged on stage to accept the best rap song trophy but told the room of musicians that winning awards isn’t necessary if you have real fans attending your concerts and singing your songs.

Drake, who rarely attends awards shows, won the honor for his massive hit “God’s Plan.”

“You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you. You already won,” he said at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

He tried to continue speaking but was cut off as the ceremony suddenly went to a commercial.

RELATED: A Colorado man has been handcrafting the Grammy statues that go to your favorite artists for decades

Rap has endured a longtime losing streak at the Grammys. The last time a rapper won album of the year was in 2004, with Outkast. Only a handful of rappers have won best new artist.

Cardi B made history as the first solo female to win best rap album (Lauryn Hill won as a member of the Fugees at the 1997 Grammys).

She was shaking onstage as she tried to give a thank-you speech with her rapper-husband Offset holding her arm.

“The nerves are so bad. Maybe I need to start smoking weed,” she said as the audience laughed. “I just want to say thank you everybody that was involved … I want to thank my daughter.”

The Grammys kicked off with a group of powerful women, including Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, describing the role of music in their lives — a display that came a year after female voices were somewhat muted at the 2018 ceremony.

“Music has always helped me tell my story,” said Obama, who surprised the audience with her appearance. “Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves. It allows us to hear one another.”

Gaga told the crowd: “They said I was weird, that my look, that my choices, that my sound wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them.”

Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez also spoke and stood in solidary with Obama, Gaga and Alicia Keys, who is hosting the show airing on CBS.

“Yes, ladies,” Keys said. “There’s nothing better than this.”

The opening contrasted with last year’s Grammys, where male acts dominated in nominations and the only woman competing for the top award, Lorde, didn’t get a chance to perform onstage.

But this year, Gaga, Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves won three Grammys each.

Carlile took three honors in the Americana category and will compete for the three biggest awards during the live show: album, song and record of the year.

Gaga also won three, including best pop duo/group performance, a win she shared with Bradley Cooper.

Gaga, now a nine-time Grammy winner, won best pop solo performance for “Joanne,” while hit “Shallow,” from “A Star is Born,” was named best song written for visual media. The song is nominated for an Oscar and also won at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the Satellite Awards.

Women have a strong presence in the top categories. Five of the eight album-of-the-year nominees were women, including Carlile’s “By the Way, I Forgive You,” Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer,” Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” and H.E.R.’s self-titled album are also in contention.

When asked about the lack of women in the top categories at the 2018 Grammys, Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow said women need to “step up.” He later acknowledged that it was a “poor choice of words,” and his much-criticized remarks forced the academy to launch a new task force focused on inclusion and diversity.

Portnow, who didn’t seek a renewal on his contract which ends this year, seemed to address his words from last year during Sunday’s show.

“This past year I’ve been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues. The need for social change has been the hallmark of the American experience, from the founding of our country to the complex times we live in today,” he said.

British singer Dua Lipa alluded to Portnow’s 2018 words when she won best new artist.

“I guess this year we’ve really stepped up,” she said after telling the audience she was was grateful to be nominated alongside so many female performers. Six of the best-new-artist nominees were women, including H.E.R., Chloe x Halle, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith.

Musgraves picked up best country album for “Golden Hour,” best country solo performance for “Butterflies” and best country song for “Space Cowboy.”

“I never dreamed that this record would be met with such love,” she said onstage.

She also gave a shout-out to her husband in the audience, saying she wouldn’t have been able to make the album if he “didn’t open my heart like you did.”

Musgraves performed “Rainbow” from “Golden Hour” during the show, and hit the stage for a second time to honor Dolly Parton. Musgraves and Katy Perry joined forces for “Here You Come Again,” later joined by Parton herself. The icon sang a duet version of “Jolene” with Miley Cyrus, who often covers the classic song. But the country music icon truly shined when she sang “Red Shoes,” with country foursome Little Big Town providing background vocals.

Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day teamed up for stirring performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” in honor Aretha Franklin, who died last year.

Diana Ross earned a standing ovation when she emerged onstage in a bright red dress to perform “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “The Best Years of My Life.” She celebrated her 75th birthday early with the performance, saying afterward, “Happy birthday to me!” Her actual birthday is March 26.

R&B singer H.E.R., who won best R&B performance for “Best Part” with Daniel Caesar, stunned as she played her guitar and sang. Chloe x Halle impressed when they sang Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack’s “Where Is the Love.” Monae grooved onstage during “Make Me Feel,” backed by several dancers. Post Malone performed with Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Cardi B grinded onstage during her latest single, “Money.”

Ariana Grande won her first Grammy in the same week that she publicly blasted Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and accused him of lying about why she was no longer performing at the show.

Tori Kelly and Lauren Daigle won two awards each. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Ella Mai, Pharrell Williams, Hugh Jackman, Stingy, Shaggy, Dave Chappelle, “Weird Al” Yankovic, the late Chris Cornell, Greta Van Fleet and even former President Jimmy Carter also picked up early awards ahead of the live show.

There was a tie for best rap performance, and Drake was surprisingly not one of the winners. Drake’s “Nice for What” lost to Anderson Paak’s “Bubblin’” and Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake’s “King’s Dead,” from the “Black Panther” soundtrack.

Beck was a double winner during the pre-telecast, taking home best alternative music album and best engineered album (non-classical) for “Colors.” Emily Lazar, one of the engineers who worked on the album and won alongside Beck, was the first female mastering engineer to win in the latter category.

Out in the fiddle of nowhere, old-time music sprouting forth

PEA GREEN — Way out in the middle of sweet-corn country, at the intersection of two roads on the way to someplace else, is a destination that regularly revives a lost era of American music.

The doors open at 6 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of every winter month, just as they have every season over the past 16 years. People, who pay 10 bucks to get in and are asked to pony up a covered dish to share, sit back and listen to old pickers give life to tunes more ancient than the historic Pea Green Community House.

Pea Green Saturday Night almost always sells out, long benches filled mostly with folks from Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties, people who know one another, some relationships stretching back for generations.

There is some catching-up to do before the music begins — at 7 p.m sharp: “How’s your family?” “Think we’ll have enough water?” “Did you hear? They planted hemp.”

LISTEN (AND WATCH) BELOW

The format for Pea Green Saturday Night is always the same: an opening band, followed by refreshments and potluck, a short comedy routine that resembles a skit from the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” and then more music.

Founder and emcee Len Willey is a lifelong musician who traces his musical knowledge to the hollows and hills of Appalachia, to the music “before electricity, before bluegrass,” mostly old-timey, ancestral tunes that have been passed down through generations.

Emcees Dean Rickman, left, and Len Willey who make up the Pea Green Brothers perform a comedy show during the first night of the 2019 Pea Green Saturday Night music series in Pea Green, Colo., on Jan. 26, 2019. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Soldier’s Joy” and “Cherokee Shuffle” are a couple of tunes he brings up to describe the marriage of fiddle, banjo and mandolin used to tell stories of simple living.

Other genres, such as reggae, rock and blues, are not what Pea Green Saturday Night fans want to hear, Willey said.

“People can get that anywhere else. The kind of music we have is homespun,” Willey said. “It’s rural, it’s distinctly American and it’s what they like listening to.”

The town of Pea Green’s first building, the schoolhouse, was built in 1887 with supplies from a local timber mill. Just after the schoolhouse was completed, cans of paint — a “fresh peas” color — arrived from the federal government. The name Pea Green stuck.

The Pea Green Community House followed in 1927, and it was renovated in the 1990s to accommodate indoor plumbing. The building now is on the State Register of Historic Properties.

The first night of the 2019 Pea Green Saturday Night music series was held in in Pea Green, Colo., on Jan. 26, 2019. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Outside the community house on the fourth Saturday of last month, temperatures were well-below freezing at showtime. A hundred yards in every direction from the the lone streetlight illuminating the corner, the landscape was dark and the stars were brilliant. In just six months, the snow-covered fields will have fresh sweet corn and onions protruding from the soil, and the intersection of Colorado 348 and Banner Road will buzz again with farm trucks.  

Inside the building, Western Slope bluegrass groups Way Down Yonder and The Bluegrass Offenders were entertaining the toe-tapping audience.

Willey said he appreciates the standing-room-only audience that shows up to hear local music in a town no longer recognized by the U.S. Postal Service, particularly given how tough it is the find the place. Google Maps has a hard time finding the community hall, and Willey admits he still sometimes gets lost getting there.

“Why is Pea Green so successful defies the laws of location, being that’s in the middle of nowhere and attendance is what it is,” Willey said. “But that’s the point of that intersection.”

Pea Green Saturday Night has found success by keeping things the same, he said.

Still, the regular gig does change from time to time. This year, the tunes will flow into spring, with bands playing an extra Saturday, in April.

And the event now has its own Facebook page. But most, if not all, of Pea Green Saturday Night’s dedicated fans are older and don’t care much for social media. They just know to drive to Pea Green on the fourth Saturday of the month and look for the dimly lit community house.

“We don’t want to change it. It works. We are careful to keep it the same as much as possible,” Willey said. “It’s about people getting together over that love for music, food, companionship and humor.”

Members of the audience get coffee and refreshments in a set break during the first night of the 2019 Pea Green Saturday Night music series in Pea Green, Colo., on Jan. 26, 2019. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Rising Sun

More from The Colorado Sun

Ditching the smoke machines

The live music scene in Tokyo (but not so much in smaller cities in Japan) works a little differently than it does here in the States. When a band wants to play a so-called “live house” in Tokyo, they essentially have to rent the room and pay for the cost through ticket sales. If sales are under quota, the band picks up the tab — in cash — at the end of the night, usually between $200 and $500. It’s called noruma, and as you can imagine, Japanese musicians have lots of feelings about it.

It’s a heavy burden for an up-and-coming band, as the members of Tokyo psych rock outfit Kikagaku Moyo can attest.

In an interview with The Japan Times in 2017, drummer and spokesperson Go Kurasawa relayed the band’s shock after an early gig at a traditional venue circa 2013.

“After we played, the venue person was like, ‘Oh, you guys did a really good job. That’s gonna be ¥30,000.’ We were like, ‘Fuck, yeah!’ and they were like, ‘No, you have to pay.’”

The difficulties didn’t stop there for the five-piece. They found themselves banned from one venue after an attempt at creating a bit of “mystery” led to the local fire department showing up. “That was like our second show and it was at a venue in Koenji,” Kurasawa tells Boulder Weekly.

“We were using two smoke machines to cover up the fact that we couldn’t play the songs. At the time we only had one song and all of the other songs were just a heavy jam.”

Musical proficiency was never a central concern for the band as it formed loosely in 2012 from a collection of like-minded individuals, led by Kurasawa and guitarist/vocalist Tomo Katsurada.

“We started out busking in Tokyo, so it was always a free improv with anyone who happened to be there,” Kurasawa says. “Also, we wanted to have people who don’t play or never played music before but shared similar taste in art, film, et cetera.”

The band’s lineup firmed up over the course of a year, eventually including guitarist Daoud Popal and bassist Kotsu Guy, who Kurasawa and Katsurada met on the streets of Tokyo recording vending machine sounds for a noise project. The lone exception to this free-wheeling group of self-taught rockers is Go’s brother Ryu, who has traveled to India yearly over the course of the last several years to study sitar with the renowned Manilal Nag. (Ryu even takes lessons from Nag via Skype between visits.)

Determined to create a space for themselves in Tokyo, Kikagoku Moyo hosted the monthly Tokyo Psych Fest for a year, bringing together a number of underground bands from across Asia, such as Taiwanese alt rockers Scattered Purgatory or Japanese Krautrockers Minami Deutsch.

Kikagaku Moyo dug in and shoveled out earthy folk-rock sounds for their eponymous debut record in 2013. The album — initially released via Bandcamp before Greek label Cosmic Eye Records picked it up and ordered up a vinyl pressing — generated enough buzz overseas to score the band a two-week tour of Australia that year, and paved the way for its American debut the following year.

Over the course of the past seven years, Kikagaku Moyo — which translates as geometric patterns — has continued to explore the far reaches of the psych rock galaxy via four full-length albums. Their most recent effort, Masana Temples, is their slickest production to date, employing the help of Portuguese guitarist and producer Bruno Pernadas (who Kurasawa cold-emailed after stumbling onto Pernadas’ music online). A jazz musician by education, it’s easy to hear Pernadas’ influence in the delicate xylophone cameo on “Orange Peel.”

But even with a brand new sheen, the band stays true to their roots, opening the record with the ineffable wanderings of Ryu Kurasawa’s sitar before descending into the nearly eight-minute psychedelic roundabout that is “Dripping Sun.”

In the band’s never-ending effort to steer clear of constraints, they mostly eschew using real language in their songs, opting for made-up language that keeps the band “free,” as Go Kurasawa puts it.

And while the band does play shows in their native land, Kikagoku Moyo has built its following on heavy touring through North America and Europe. The band has developed some business acumen over the years, forming a record label, Guruguru Brain, populated by the bands who played Tokyo Psych Fest. In 2017, Go Kurasawa and Tomo Katsurada moved to Amsterdam, where they basically operate as a hub for not only Kikagaku Moyo, but also other bands on Guruguru Brain.

And they ditched the smoke machines.

ON THE BILL: Kikagaku Moyo. 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver. SOLD OUT.

8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Tickets are $15-$20.

The post Ditching the smoke machines appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

The best of both worlds

In 1969, thousands of people crammed into the Royal Albert Hall in London to watch Deep Purple perform their Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The band’s long hair and unbuttoned shirts were juxtaposed with the tux-wearing and neatly groomed orchestra players. The concerto begins almost as a battle of the bands, the orchestra pitted against Deep Purple, competing for preeminence of the musical realms. By the end, the two integrate seamlessly, unified in both sound and performance.

The crowd was likewise bifurcated. Some observers sat still in their seats, heads maybe cocked to one side or the other, a few lit cigarettes dotted the crowd. Others, however, were on their feet dancing, headbanging to the combination of electric guitars and cellos, synthesizers and horns, a classic rock drum kit and orchestral percussion. At the end, the entire audience gave a standing ovation, clapping, cheering and waving British flags as Jon Lord of Deep Purple stood to shake conductor Malcom Arnold’s hand, a formality not often seen at rock concerts.

It’s the performance credited with starting the trend of classical orchestras collaborating with contemporary rock bands — from Roger Waters playing with the The Military Orchestra of the Soviet Army on The Wall — Live in Berlin to Arcade Fire jamming with the Manchester Orchestra at Summerfest and everything in between. It’s the genesis of uniting seemingly disparate groups, audiences and musicians alike, an effort to bring new audiences into the symphony, to preserve and appreciate a classical art form while remaining relevant.

“All orchestras really, all around the world, have been quite smart about this idea that if you get a new, younger audience in there, and have their minds blown by this sound, and it’s really mind-blowing, it’s a great experience,” says Wayne Coyne, frontman of The Flaming Lips, who are set to revisit their 2016 Red Rocks performance of The Soft Bulletin with the Colorado Symphony Feb. 22 at the Boettcher Concert Hall in celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary. It’s “us playing to a slightly different audience, playing something in a slightly different atmosphere, but also bringing something different to the symphony.”

It’s hard for Coyne to believe what’s often described as the band’s seminal record was released two decades ago. The band has been playing and recording together since 1983, and time seems almost irrelevant to him now.

“We don’t really remember how we made it, but we know we did,” Coyne says about the album. Created over the few years preceding its 1999 release, The Soft Bulletin utilized emerging technology to create a record rich in orchestration without the use of an actual orchestra.

The entire album displays dense instrumentation, distorted drumbeats and piano riffs with overlays of synthesized string parts and vocal harmonies. The middle track, “The Observer,” is perhaps the pinnacle of such electronic orchestration, a sweeping instrumental piece with an angelic chorus of heavenly voices.

“We’re not symphonic composers and all that, but in making it our own way, it sounds like that,” Coyne says. “We just went about it like we knew what we were doing, but we don’t really know what we’re doing.”

George Salisbury
The Flaming Lips

“We’re the sun and we’re the clouds but if you want to see the sunset, you can’t be the sun and clouds,” he expounds a few minutes later. “You have to be standing away from it. And I think it’s a little bit like that, this stuff that we made, when you stand away from it, it does have this great effect, but when you’re in the middle of making it, you don’t know what it is.”

When The Soft Bulletin first came out, Coyne says the band was excited by the new material, playing to audiences who may not have had any idea what to expect, but nevertheless were accustomed to the Lips’ experimental and out-of-the-box tendencies. As time went on, however, it became clear the album had broader appeal than the group originally realized.

“After a couple of years of playing it, we noticed it was attracting more normal people,” Coyne says. “It wouldn’t be our typical Flaming Lips, weirdo, freak-flag-flying people in the audience. And that part of it was kind of a new experience for us.”

While the band has played songs from the album, or the whole album at once, for years, sometimes even projecting images of the great American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein while doing so, it wasn’t until 2016, at Red Rocks, that they played it backed by a full symphony orchestra.

The Soft Bulletin album, if you give it a listen, there’s portions of the record where there’s clearly a chorus involved, there’s portions of the album where you can hear its horns, and strings and harp,” says Anthony Pierce, chief artistic officer of the Colorado Symphony. “I just knew they (The Flaming Lips) would lend themselves well to this.”

The Colorado Symphony has been working with contemporary musicians for years, performing and recording with the likes of Denver’s own DeVotchka and folk icon Gregory Alan Isakov, among others. So when Pierce got longtime Lips manager Scott Booker’s business card, he saw it as an opportunity to create something spectacular with the band. He enlisted the help of Todd Hagerman from DeVotchka to write the orchestral charts and the two flew down to the Lips’ homebase in Oklahoma City for a day. They met at Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, which was founded a decade ago by Booker and the Lips’ multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.

Brandon Marshall
In 2016, The Flaming Lips
performed their seminal album ‘The Soft Bulletin’ with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks.

“We kind of just played through the record on the piano, Steven just laid out all the chord progressions. He’s one of these guys who can get at the keyboard and play anything he wants. It blows your mind how phenomenally talented this guy is,” Pierce says. “He scribbled out the harmonic progression for each song on a piece of paper … because I don’t know that anyone had really transcribed The Soft Bulletin.”

Hagerman then took that and wrote the music for the Colorado Symphony, some 70 members playing music usually performed live solely by the seven members of the Lips, plus the Colorado Symphony Chorus, a group of 180 or so volunteer singers from across the state.

“We need to show people new applications of what we can do,” Pierce says. “And this is one of the mechanisms to do that.”

Coyne defers a lot of the success of the show to the expertise of the symphony orchestra musicians. “It’s a lot of intricate, dynamic music and every instrument up there matters,” he says. “I’m not really a musician, I’m just making up my own stuff and hoping it works.”

It rained the night of the 2016 Red Rocks show, as guest conductor Andre de Ridder led the symphony through the entirety of The Soft Bulletin, plus a few encores of other Lips hits like “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1” and “Do You Realize??” Coyne stood on a tall podium adorned in a robe of lights, beach balls bouncing through the crowd, blasting confetti cannons to finish out the show. The entire night was recorded, and the live album is anticipated later this year, giving Coyne and the Lips yet another reason to revisit The Soft Bulletin and play with the Colorado Symphony again, this time with conductor Christopher Dragon.

Brandon Marshall
Christopher Dragon, associate conductor of the Colorado Symphony

“We would have always been drawn to stuff by Stravinsky or the famous piece from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Any musician hears those and you go, ‘Oh man, that’s just too great.’ But it’s quite a leap to make music like that,” Coyne says. “I think it was part of our desire to make emotional music that has that kind of impact, that kind of drama to it.”

With The Soft Bulletin, the Lips achieved just that. Not only in its electronic orchestration, but with Coyne’s lyrics, full of anguish, existential dread and grief, rounded out with the Lips’ quintessential ethereal optimism.

“I think it’s saying life is brutal but it’s also beautiful,” Coyne says. “To be only optimistic and not understand the brutality and the pain in the world, that doesn’t really work. And I think that’s what The Soft Bulletin is saying, that pain, and those dilemmas, and how ugly and how unfixable some things are and yet it still sings about the sun and things that are going to work and things that are going to make you happy.”

Even now, he says, just as much as when the record came out, the band often runs into people who express deep emotional connection to the songs, profound experiences tied to the music. It’s what’s brought people to live performances, whether classical or rock, for hundreds of years.

In 1969, when Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic collaborated to create their genre-bending spectacle Concerto for Group and Orchestra, British TV later broadcast it as “The Best of Both Worlds.” The same sense of fusion serves The Soft Bulletin well, decades after it was first released.

“It’s mysterious in a wonderful, wonderful way,” Coyne says. “It’s a long, weird, but wonderful thing.”

ON THE BILL: The Flaming Lips perform ‘The Soft Bulletin’ with the Colorado Symphony. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, Boettcher Concert Hall, 1000 14th St., Denver, coloradosymphony.org/tickets.

The post The best of both worlds appeared first on Boulder Weekly.

Pentatonix World Tour will come through Denver’s Pepsi Center in May

The Pentatonix are ready to prove you don’t need instruments to get the Pepsi Center rockin’.

The three-time Grammy Award-winning a capella group announced its “Pentatonix: The World Tour” on Thursday with 45 stops — including Denver’s Pepsi Center on May 19. Singer-songwriter Rachel Platten will open the show.

For those who need an a capella refresher (aca-scuse me?), that means no instrumental accompaniment. Bass lines, riffs, all the musical goodies are performed by the ol’ vocal chords.

Pitch Perfect GIF by The Meredith Vieira Show - Find & Share on GIPHY

Beyond the Grammys, the group has sold nearly 10 million albums, and it has more than 15.5 million subscribers on YouTube, according to the tour’s press release. Top vocally mindblowing tracks include “Mary, Did You Know?,” “Hallelujah” and “Can’t Sleep Love.”

The group sang with Kelly Clarkson at the Pepsi Center in 2015.

Tickets will be available to Patreon members with a presale that will run Monday, Feb. 11, from 10 a.m. to Thursday, Feb. 14, at 10 p.m.

The rest of the tickets will go on sale Friday, Feb. 15, at noon at Altitude Tickets and 303-893-TIXS. Promoter Live Nation does not disclose ticket prices to its concerts.

A Colorado man has been handcrafting the Grammy statues that go to your favorite artists for decades

John Billings remembers the moment he realized just how significant his life’s work is.

Billings, who has been handcrafting the Grammy awards for the last four decades, watched as Bob Dylan strode on stage to receive the 1991 Lifetime Achievement award from Jack Nicholson.

Billings started to cry.

“I finally realized, ‘Wow, I’m really part of something,’ ” said Billings, 72. “I’ve always loved the fact that when I go to the Grammys and see the winners’ faces, it changes them. Once you’ve won a Grammy, it changes your life. You’re always introduced as ‘Grammy-winning so-and-so.’ I like that part of being some sort of conduit to lifting people’s lives. It changes their life and it satisfies mine. I get a lot of comfort and satisfaction by helping lift people up — I love doing that.”

In early February, Billings will travel from his home in Ridgway to Los Angeles, swapping out his work T-shirt for a custom-made, embroidered designer jacket for the black-tie awards ceremony. Each year, Billings and his team of four craftsmen create roughly 600 awards from scratch for the Grammys and Latin Grammys, work that culminates with a trip to the annual music awards ceremony on Feb. 10.

Working seven days a week in his 2,000-square-foot workshop, Billings and his team also create the Annie Awards, which recognize talented animators; the John R. Wooden awards, given to the top men’s and women’s college basketball players; and duck-shaped metal hood ornaments that first appeared in the 1978 movie “Convoy” and are now popular among truck drivers.

Making the Grammys

Grammy statue bells await assembly in John Billings’ studio January 12, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

From start to finish, each Grammy takes about 15 hours to make. Billings and his crew work in batches of 30 awards, with each member of the team specializing in a few steps of the process. Once the base of the award is cast, for instance, a craftsman uses a belt sander to file down all the sharp edges. He then applies two layers of primer, sanding the base between each layer, before applying a final coat of black lacquer paint.

Another craftsman spends much of his time grinding and polishing the cabinet, tone arm and bell for each award.

Billings does the final assembly of all the pieces, a process that includes lasering unique serial numbers on the 5-pound awards, which are then sent out for 24-karat gold plating. A few weeks before the ceremony, Billings loads up all the awards and drives them to the Recording Academy’s headquarters in Santa Monica. Then, after he gets a list of all the winners, he’ll engrave a nameplate for each winner and ship them out to be attached to the statues.

Billings, his employees and their family members then make a separate trip to attend the ceremony and red-carpet events leading up to it. (Ironically, Billings says the best seat he ever had for the Grammys was in a hotel room, watching on TV, when he caught pneumonia before the show.)

All told, Billings uses about 6,000 pounds a year of a special metal alloy he calls “grammium,” which is smelted in California.

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At one time, Billings made all of the Grammys by himself. But in 1991, he redesigned the statue, which made it even more complicated and time-consuming to make. He began slowly adding to his team, training each member carefully in the art of his intricate craft.

“They have all become craftsmen in their own right,” Billings said. “It doesn’t just come naturally. It’s not like you can take a class or read a book; you just have to learn it.

Patrick Moore, who had a career hanging drywall before meeting Billings, says he’s grateful to learn from such an accomplished craftsman and artist. The process requires a lot of patience, one of the main virtues Moore says he’s learned from watching Billings.

“There’s no Grammy that looks exactly the same,” says Moore, 53. “Each one has its own character. It’s definitely handcrafted.”

That sentiment is shared by the many musicians, producers, sound engineers and other award-winners, who, as artists themselves, appreciate the craft that goes into making each Grammy, said Bill Freimuth, chief awards officer for the Recording Academy.

“Without the award, the Grammy is an idea or concept. It sounds good, but it’s abstract,” Freimuth said. “Once a recipient is holding the physical award for the first time — something I’ve been honored to witness quite a lot — you can see the glow in their eyes. They see that golden gramophone and realize that they are now officially a part of the music history for which it stands. They are awestruck.”

One-of-a-kind projects

John Billings’ Grammy awards credentials from years past in his studio January 12, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Though the Grammys, Latin Grammys, other awards and ducks take up most of his time, Billings, a master mold-maker and perpetual tinkerer, also enjoys working on one-of-a-kind projects. Case in point: He recently made a mold of the Dragon V2 spacecraft for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company wanted to create 5,000 spacecraft-shaped desk lamps to give away to executives, Billings said.

He also recently repaired a trophy given to Amelia Earhart in the 1930s that had ended up in a box in the back of a closet “in 100 pieces,” Billings said. It took him two months to painstakingly solder all the pieces back together, and now the 4-foot-tall trophy looks as if it had never been broken, he said.

Using an original piece from the Titanic, Billings designed a mold used to create light fixtures that appeared in the 1997 film about the tragedy. After vandals trashed a trophy case at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Billings got the call to restore trophies from the 1930s and 1940s.

His reputation as an expert craftsman often precedes him.

“I’m out in the middle of nowhere, I don’t advertise, but when people are searching for where to get this type of work done, I’m one of three mold-makers left in the country,” he said. “I have a craft that is slowly disappearing.”

Arts in Ridgway

John Billings, Billings Artworks, looks over more than 300 completed, boxed Grammy statues in his studio that he and his crew have made for this year’s awards show in Ridgway on January 12, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Billings first encountered the Grammy awards at the age of 12, when his family moved to Van Nuys, Calif. Their next-door neighbor was Bob Graves, who made the first Grammy for the 1959 ceremony. After earning a degree in dental technology, Billings began to apprentice under Graves in 1976. When Graves died in 1983, Billings took over the business and moved to Ridgway not long after.

He continues to be inspired by the San Juan Mountains and Ridgway’s calm, laid-back attitude.

“You never get tired of looking at the mountains,” he said. “It’s just awe-inspiring.”

Indeed, Billings fits right into this mountain community with roughly 1,000 residents. Ridgway has become a haven for artists and craftsmen who create everything from beeswax candles to blown-glass decor. Ridgway is also home to Kiitella, the studio of artist and designer Lisa Issenberg, who makes awards for a variety of competitions and ceremonies.

Though he spends much of his time working, Billings is involved in the Ridgway arts community. He supported Ridgway’s quest to become a state-certified creative district, a title bestowed upon the town in 2013. He and late sculptor Michael McCullough founded the Ridgway Annual Amateur Sculpting Contest, which is now in its seventh year. Billings is also supportive of Ridgways as a site for the statewide Space to Create initiative, which aims to build affordable housing and workspace for creatives.

“John loves this community, and it loves him back,” said Hilary Lewkowitz, spokeswoman for the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce. “He is an active and generous community member who has grown his business by hiring local folks and training them in his craft.”

For his part, Billings says he has no plans to retire, though he has been thinking about dedicating more time to his passion projects.

When he’s not working — which isn’t often — Billings likes to spend his time fishing, gardening or hanging out on his pontoon on Ridgway Reservoir. Billings created a music room inside his home with thousands of records and CDs, a drum set and 11 guitars (Billings plays bass and drums). He listens mostly to music from the 1960s and ’70s, but he also tries to keep up with new artists, especially when the list of Grammy nominees comes out.

He also loves to paint portraits in oil, though he says he can never find enough time.

“Retirement doesn’t appeal to me,” he says. “I can’t see myself sitting on a beach with a cocktail. I have so many projects that I think about and work on and try to develop, and it’s nothing — it’s just for my satisfaction.”

John Billings, Billings Artworks, has two cases of stunt Grammy statues that he will take with him for the upcoming awards show. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

61st Grammy Awards

When: 6 p.m. on Feb. 10

How to watch: CBS

To view the full list of nominees: grammy.com/grammys/awards/61st-annual-grammy-awards

Super Bowl 53 halftime show review: Maroon 5 brings the basic

There are a number of words you could use to describe Maroon 5′s halftime show performance: Empty. Boring. Basic. Sleepy. Skippable. Unfulfilling. Unnecessary.

And those who came to help save the day didn’t do their jobs: If you blinked you would have missed that Travis Scott and Big Boi performed. Even the gospel choir singer was a struggle — clearly they let the wrong one sing lead Sunday.

Adam Levine and friends kicked off the performance as fireworks burst from a stage designed like the letter “M,” which should have stood for “magic,” because they needed some.

It started off on the right note, actually. “Harder to Breathe,” the band’s amazing debut rock song, was rousing as fire blasts shot from the sides of the stage. Levine grabbed his guitar for “This Love,” while other bandmates also strummed away.

It was all going well until a joke was uttered: “A true musical genius who needs no introduction.”

That’s when Scott rocketed to the stage. He tried to rap — most of it was bleeped out — in a circle of fire, but his inclusion felt more like an interruption. Scott performed his No. 1 hit, “Sickomode,” and Levine awkwardly danced beside him, which looked almost as bad as Katy Perry dancing next to Missy Elliott at Super Bowl 49.

But there was one Scott highlight: He fell backward into the audience and faded away.

The rest of the performance went downhill like Scott’s body did. Maroon 5 performed the very terrible hit “Girls Like You,” making the already bad song sound worse by mixing in a gospel choir, led by a singer whose voice would make you walk out of church (sorry, girl).

Each transition during the halftime show didn’t feel smooth, and Big Boi appearing on top of a car in a thick mink coat added to the bizarreness of the night.

When he performed “The Way You Move,” it just made you wonder what Andre 3000 was doing at the moment. Watching? Sleeping? Probably sleeping while watching.

You probably had similar thoughts when Scott was onstage and Drake’s vocals played at the beginning of “Sickomode” — wishing the show had a real superstar like Drizzy to give an epic performance.

Those thoughts lingered again when Levine sang “Moves Like Jagger.” WHERE IS MICK JAGGER RIGHT NOW AND CAN HE PERFORM? Any of the Stones would do, actually.

Who probably should have headlined the halftime show? Gladys Knight.

She scored a touchdown with her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”: The legend’s voice shined brightly as she hit all the right notes ahead of the big game between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle were also in top-notch form: They harmonized like a veteran girl group as they sang “America the Beautiful” at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The group, nominated for two Grammys at next week’s show including best new artist, are signed to Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment.

Noise and controversy surrounded this year’s Super Bowl since some have boycotted the NFL over treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback who protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Some performers declined participation in the Super Bowl as a result.

Louisville quartet Card Catalog is poised to release its first album

Is Card Catalog ready for a close-up and to start getting the wider recognition its members have earned?

By Dave Kirby

“When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the library a lot,” remembered Card Catalog singer and songwriter Jenn Tatro. “I used to kind of run around, mess with the books and mess with the card catalog.”

As she got a little older, she and her friends used to climb a tree to get on the library roof to joke around, tell stories and look at the stars in her hometown of Augusta, Kan., just east of Wichita. Naming her band after a warmly recalled artifact of that institution and her own childhood was a fond gesture to her past.

Tatro is still telling stories:

She rode high/she consumed the souls of men
Started out clean then she turned on them
Ran the show when she didn’t have a plan
Blamed others when things slipped through her hands
(from “Madame Crash”)

An unabashed Fleetwood Mac fan from her early years, Tatro combines that influence with darker, more angular influences from the early 1990s: Dolores O’Riordan and Rage Against the Machine. With her longtime songwriting partner, guitarist Dalton Clayton, Tatro and her band have crafted a compelling and provocative identity: a four-piece blues/folk/alternative rock collective. They focus more on songs than jamming in an area steeped in jam-based and electric music, where that ethic may represent an upstream swim for an aspiring rock outfit. Part bluesy swagger, part folkie murmur, part full-on rock rage, Card Catalog serves up a spiky alternative.

Card Catalog members left to right: Dalton Clayton, Jenn Tatro, Ricky Brewer and Kelton Kragor. (photo by Karen A Dombrowski-Sobel)

For most bands making the transition from cover band to originals and graduating from playing parties and small private functions to club dates and regional festivals, this is the time of both greatest freedom and greatest discipline. Free to define your art and let it mature without undue expectations from fans or club owners, you still need to craft it, nurture it, improve it and hear it as others may hear it, since most of them will be hearing it for the first time.

And you have to do that a lot.

“Up to this point, we’ve said ‘yes’ to pretty much every show we’ve been offered,” noted guitarist Dalton Clayton, a native Alabaman and avowed child of the school of Southern rock. “We’ve played kids’ birthday parties that were awkward as hell, we’ve played auctions for old folks’ communities, we’ve done cancer benefits for friends who were diagnosed. We’ve been offered shows at venues that maybe weren’t really our style, but we’ve done them anyway because we want to build as much stage experience as we can.

“I think our main focus right now is getting venues that we think will benefit us the most.”
Card Catalog won a Boulder Battle of the Bands competition in 2017, and their award included two recording days at eTown, where the band cut five of the songs that appear on their upcoming debut album, due to be released in January. Many musicians spend their whole lives preparing for a first album. Once that day arrives, things often happen quickly. The turn of the new year will see Card Catalog in action, playing a set at the Boulder International Film Festival and the manic community weirdness of Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, both in March.

But as the year rolls on and word gets out, there could well be more out-of-state club gig offers, festival invitations, more regular gigging and bigger venues in and around Boulder or Denver. Their online presence up to this point, a stanchion in any band’s development in the Internet age, has been limited due to copyright delays. (Drummer Ricky Brewer has past experience in bands and around the wider music industry, and has helped navigate management issues and outright copyright larceny. Yes, that happens.)

With a new record comes the campaign—social media, streaming services, press profiles and all the rest. But as the band members are still managing full-time jobs and/or school, are they ready to reach for the brass ring when their time comes around?

“I’m really ready,” Tatro said. “I have the flexibility to jump when the time comes.”

“I think the best thing [that came from my day job] was finding these two guys (Clayton and bassist Kelton Kragor),” she continued. “They are just amazing people in general, and I love having them on my team and in my life. I feel like we’re a family, and I don’t say that lightly.”

The post Louisville quartet Card Catalog is poised to release its first album appeared first on GetBoulder.com.

Coors Field adds another concert to its 2019 summer lineup

The Zac Brown Band will stop at Coors Field in Denver on Aug. 9 during its “The Owl Tour,” Live Nation announced Friday.

The band is the second addition to the stadium’s summer lineup. Billy Joel will be performing the night before on Aug. 8.

Zac Brown Band will be joined in Denver by country soul rock band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, as well as country singer Caroline Jones.

Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Feb. 8 on LiveNation.com. A pre-sale begins at 11 a.m. Feb. 5.

The release date for the band’s latest album has yet to be announced, although its lead single “Someone I Used To Know” was dropped in November.

Jakob Dylan to appear at Boulder International Film Festival

The Boulder International Film Festival announced on Tuesday announced that Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jakob Dylan will make a special appearance on then closing night of the festival.

Dylan will appear March 3 at the Boulder Theater for a special screening of documentary “Echo in the Canyon” that follows the closing night awards ceremony, according to a news release.

“Echo in The Canyon,” directed by Andrew Slater, former president and CEO of Capitol Records, examines how The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas & The Papas set the stage for the Laurel Canyon music scene that influenced other musicians in the 1960s and beyond.

Dylan appears in the film and also is executive producer.

Boulder International Film Festival Executive Director Robin Beeck in a news release said she is excited to have Dylan appear at the festival and that the film is a “perfect finale” for the occasion.

Dylan is the third official celebrity appearance announced for this year’s festival. Musician David Crosby and actor and director Emilio Estevez also are slated to appear.

Splash down

A few years ago, Sarah Brightman was planning to make a re-entry into the earthly world after a trip to space. That adventure did not happen, but Brightman found she had gone far enough into the world of space travel that she had to make a re-entry of another kind if she was to resume her primary career as a singer, recording artist and performer.

So after spending five years training and preparing for a flight into space, Brightman set up a different sort of lab to transition back to music.

“I rented this small house on the beach, in a warm place, and I asked a friend of mine, who is an opera singer who also teaches, if he would come and work with me for a few months,” Brightman recounted in a mid-December phone interview. “And that’s all we did, every day. We’d lie on the beach and then I would sing and work on things and listen to things. And that was how I got my head back around to doing all of this (music) and started to get inspired by, you know, what I had been doing originally.”

Brightman’s planned 10-day trip in September 2015 to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyus rocket had been quite the source of curiosity — not to mention media coverage. She booked her ticket through Space Adventures, Ltd, a private space experience company for a reported $31 million in Canadian dollars.

But then she announced in May 2015 that she was postponing her plans for the flight. Brightman has not been specific in her public explanations for why she didn’t complete her intended mission.

“I came out of the space program for all sorts of reasons and not necessarily [in] my control, although, you know, I passed all of my exams. I did everything,” she said in this interview.

One thing she realized when she stepped away from the space program and back into normal life, was the world around her had gone through some stark changes.

“I had about five years where I wasn’t concentrating on the world,” Brightman said. “I was just trying to focus in on all of the space stuff, what I had to do, because it’s incredibly hard. And when I came out of it, because I had been away, I could see things very clearly when I suddenly looked. And I was very shocked. I was shocked at actually how kind of on the edge of dystopian we were.”

So Brightman found herself turning away from the scientific toward the spiritual, and this provided her inspiration for what the Hymn album would become.

“I really, really wanted to do something that is sort of enlightening for me,” she said. “All of those Biblical rules that we’re all given, and they’re very simple rules, I mean, about goodness, looking after your neighbor, enjoying the moment and being enlightened as much as you can in life because it’s a short time that we’re here, all of those [are] simple rules. So kind of like having that break from that faith thing and being in a scientific world, suddenly coming (out of it), that’s what enticed me to do an album and a piece like this.”

The album that resulted has its spiritual themes (the title track, written by Barclay James Harvest, and “Better Is One Day” are very much Christian songs), but is more meant to inspire hope, happiness and belief in the ability of people to do right in this world. Musically, Hymn, like other Brightman albums, is a lush work, with orchestra and choir giving it an ornate feel, as she sings songs that are both contemporary, including the title track, “Fly To Paradise” (by Eric Whitacre) and “Sky and Sand” (by German DJ Paul Kalkbrenner), as well as traditional works such as Gia Nel Seno (La Storia D Lucrezia).”

Hymn is Brightman’s 12th studio album (not counting compilations and albums with former husband Andrew Lloyd Webber), and her sales of more than 30 million albums (as well as her elaborate concert tours) have made Brightman a leading classical crossover artist, a genre she is credited with originating. Those successes followed her initial turn in the spotlight with musical theater, where she originated the role of Christine Daae in the London production of Phantom of the Opera by Webber.

Brightman figures to touch on music from throughout her career during shows on a current tour in support of Hymn. It’s an elaborate show, both musically and visually, complete with costume changes for Brightman.

“It’s beautiful because there are a lot of human beings on stage,” Brightman said. “Obviously, we’ve got orchestra and band. And we’ve got all of these choir members singing. I wanted to use a huge amount of back light and beautiful light design, which bathed the whole thing. It’s amazing because my music, for whatever reason, [makes people] think of something very uplifting and very spiritual and it leaves people happy. And this album is particularly like that. So that really is what the tour is.”

On the Bill: Sarah Brightman. 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Denver. Tickets are $50-$249, altitudetickets.com/events/detail/sarah-brightman

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Velorama Festival announces it will not return in 2019

The Velorama Festival, the musical sidekick of the Colorado Classic pro bicycle race, will go silent.

Velorama joins the short-lived Grandoozy, which announced earlier this month that the Denver music festival is going on hiatus in 2019.

Organizers of Velorama announced Tuesday that the music festival will not return this year and that the bicycle race will go it alone.

“Velorama was created as a companion music and cycling festival to the Colorado Classic…to return pro bicycle racing to Colorado in a sustainable way,” the RPM Events Group said in written statement. “By pivoting the Colorado Classic to become a women’s standalone pro bicycle race, we can fulfill that mission without the need for Velorama.”

Velorama, which debuted in 2017, drew more than 25,000 fans over three-days in August to the Colorado Rockies overflow parking lot for concerts, bike events, art, games, food and drink.

In announcing the shutdown, RPM thanked the “tens of thousands” of fans who had partied at Velorama. Organizers also thanked Veolorama performers, exhibitors and sponsors, along with city, state and RiNo residents for hosting. “We made some beautiful music and memories together,” the statement said.

On Jan. 11, Grandoozy organizers announced that the three-day music festival, which brought Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, St. Vincent and Florence + the Machine, among others, to the Overland Golf Course in September, will be on hiatus this year.

Grandoozy, which drew about 55,000 in its first and only event, has a contract with the city through 2022. It’s possible the festival can make a comeback.