The carbon footprint of a major touring act is huge. And often, the talent level is less than expected—live music has a way of exposing over-produced recordings and post-production wizardry. Colorado is fast becoming a Mecca of locally-produced, top-tier music talent—bands that take fewer resources to appreciate but are just as talented. This year, support a local act or three and discover something new. It’s good for you and the planet.
Where you can find them: Pretty much everywhere and anywhere there’s live music. paperbirdband.com
Paper Bird is the new DeVotchKa. Which is to say, the group defies labeling with a self-aware and slightly self-deprecating sense of Earthy humor that makes them instantly ingratiating.
In the last few years, Paper Bird has garnered national awareness, thankfully stealing the spotlight from the annoyingly picked-and-plucked jamgrass scene that seems to scream “Colorado” to everyone but Coloradans. Even stranger, the band actually has a banjo in it, and a trombone, for that matter. But Paper Bird is an indie pop band, never mind all that grassy encumbrance. They’re PopGrass. Their music sticks to your ribs like buttery molasses, something you love instantly and can’t shake no matter how much music you chase it with.
Part of it probably has something to do with the vocals (Sarah Anderson and sisters Esme and Genny Patterson); three sirens with enough warbling edge that their intended minor dissonances might actually be more beautiful than their spot-on major harmonies. Part of it might be Tyler Archuletta’s understated trombone work and the supportive banjo-swing that shuffles off of Caleb Summeril’s fretboard. Part of it probably has something to do with the arrangements and song composition the rest of the group (Macon Terry, bass; Paul DeHaven, guitar) commits to…though the musicianship across the ranks is excellent, all pistons are firing together to propel the song forward rather than highlight the talents of any individual. The end result? A cohesive, unique, rootsy collection of lush harmonies and hooks.
Where you can find her: Nissi’s, 2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette ninastorey.com
In 1993, Nina Storey burst onto the national consciousness with the release of her debut CD, Guilt and Honey. Or rather, that’s what should have happened. Instead, the album—a smart collection of bluesy, soulful pop rock—strolled along in relative obscurity to everyone but those of us in her home state who immediately fell in love with the crimson-haired ingénue.
In the ensuing 17 years, Storey has quietly amassed a portfolio of accolades that includes opening slots with artists ranging from John Lee Hooker to Etta James; gracing the stage at big-label events including Lilith Fair, and seeing her music showcased on TV shows like Days of Our Lives and movies like Stay Cool.
In other words, though she may not be a household name in Tallahassee, Fla., Storey’s managed to pursue a steady musical career that is an inspiration to would-be singer songwriters…without help from major labels or soulless studio execs. Indeed, Storey’s like one of those best-kept Colorado secrets, like the fishing at Turquoise Lake in Leadville, or the skiing at Arapahoe Basin. Something we can all enjoy without too much worry about the rest of the world screwing it up.
Lionel Young Band
Where you can find them: Oskar Blues, 303 Main St., Lyons. myspace.com/lionelyoung
Lionel Young is an example of what happens when you take a classically trained, eminently talented violinist and set him loose on America’s oldest living musical art form—the blues. Young blends a guitar-styled picking approach with his bowing—giving a greater berth of versatility to his soloing. Young’s bluesy, deep string bends and fretless fingerboard allows for the microtonal blues notes to stand out much brighter than they might on an everyday Stratocaster.
For more than two decades the prolific fiddle player has set a high bar on the blues genre, while also finding the time to play with artists ranging from Stanley Turrentine to Stevie Wonder to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, thanks to his unique sound. Young proves that musical virtuosity needn’t be confined to the upper echelons of inaccessible, “legit” music—indeed, his deep study developed a big toolkit and complete palate that makes Young a standout in a field of standouts.
Where you can find them: Cactus Jack’s Saloon, 4651 Highway 73, Evergreen. inactivists.com
The Inactivists is a quirky, musically diverse group unlike any other in Colorado. Sure, they’ve got a guitar and a bass and drums, but they also add an electric ukulele and a theremin, which is like a trombone, if it was made out of an old radio and played by waving your hands around between two antennas.
With such a unique instrumentation, the group one-ups itself with a collection of originals that might have been written by They Might Be Giants and sung by Weird Al. In short, the only disservice this group does to itself might be in not taking itself seriously enough—an unusual charge in today’s musical landscape of navel-gazing emocore and vitriolic rap groups.
But that’s not a slight against the band—indeed, their tongue-in-cheek stage presence is a welcome diversion from the above, and their live stage show is an engrossing romp you won’t want to end. Sure, they might be a little too quirky, a little too funny, a little too madcap to ever see major label success, but really, that would only get in the band’s way, anyhow.