We all can name a few local bands from this awesome city, and not just artists from today, but from many moons ago. Denver has always been a creative hub, which continues to show through our music scene today.
Blasts from the Past
Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., John Denver changed his last name in honor of his favorite state, Colorado. He was a renowned singer-songwriter as well as an actor, humanitarian and environmentalist. He died in 1997, but remains a popular acoustic artist and one of the best-selling artists of all time, including his ode to Colorado, "Rocky Mountain High." Hear more of his amazing music here.
Earth, Wind & Fire
Although this legendary band was formed in Chicago, three of its early members - Larry Dunn, Philip Bailey and Andrew Woolfolk - hailed from Colorado. In fact, they all attended Denver's East High School and continued to perform in the state long after graduation. EWF became one of the most successful bands of all time with hits like "September" and "Shining Star."
Boulder is known for many things, from an entrepreneurial hotspot to a foodie haven. It's also a place where famous bands have formed, including the rock group Firefall. The group was founded in 1974 and the name was derived by founding member Rick Roberts who was inspired by Yosemite Firefall, a summer tradition of dumping a cascade of flaming embers off of Glacier Point in California's Yosemite National Park. With such hits as "You Are the Woman" and "Just Remember I Love You," Firefall is a band Colorado is proud to be a part of.
Who doesn't start singing to the song "Green-Eyed Lady" when you hear it on the radio? American rock band Sugarloaf originated in Denver in the early 1970s. The band only lasted about five years before members went off to pursue other music careers, but we are thankful that they met in the Mile High City and graced us with some great rock tunes like "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You."
Denver's Stars of Today
Whenever anyone asks people if they know of bands with recent ties to Colorado, the most likely response will be either The Fray or OneRepublic. The Fray is a contemporary American rock band whose debut album "How to Save a Life" went certified double platinum. Such songs as "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "You Found Me" garnered quick fame on the airwaves and the group continues to put out great music yearly.
Finding success on Myspace may be a thing of the past, but for OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Zach Filkins, their first commercial success as a group came by way of the social networking site in 2002. The two first met in high school in Colorado Springs in 1996 where they both shared a love of music and decided to put a band together. Fast forward to 2007 with OneRepublic's release of its debut album, "Dreaming Out Loud," which saw success for the band with the hit single "Apologize." From that point on, the group has continued to find success with this unique sound and one-of-a-kind musical style including the smash hit, "Counting Stars." Most recently, OneRepublic performed alongside the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, making them one of Colorado's most beloved acts.
This four-piece instrumental and vocal ensemble, whose name means "girl" in Russian, originally started off as a backing band for burlesque shows. They built a following from numerous nationwide tours in support of their self-released records with songs like "How it Ends." The band was picked up in 2006 to score the incredible film "Little Miss Sunshine" and went on to gather four Academy Award nominations. DeVotchKa continues to make a mark as one of the best bands from Colorado.
Can you say "Ho" and "Hey"? This small but mighty folk rock band has had loads of success in the past few years and there are many reasons for that. Founding members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites started the band as a way to cope with the loss of someone they held dear. Vocalist and cellist Neyla Pekarek joined the band in 2010 after responding to a Craigslist ad and the other two joined shortly after to further develop the band. Their debut album went platinum in both the United States and Ireland and behind the catchiest song in years, "Ho Hey" and "The Hanging Tree," that was featured in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," this Denver band will continue to wow their fans and the music industry for many years to come. Most recently, The Lumineers released their third album, III, with a visual component to boot.
This Denver hip-hop group continues to help the world through their music. Formed in 2000, Flobots found their success in 2007 with the release of "Flight with Tools," featuring their single "Handlebars." That same year they founded Flobots.org (now Youth On Record), an organization dedicated to empowering young people through creative education. Winners of countless awards for their work in the community, this group continues to give back through their service and music.
Colorado has a special place for electronic music and some of that may be because of Derek Vincent Smith, or as the music world knows him, Pretty Lights. Smith has been involved with music since he was in the eighth grade, and over the last few years he has continued to expand the sound of electronic music with his distinctive sound, like on "Finally Moving" and his incredibly complex lighting and laser displays during his performances. Recently adding live instrumentals to his shows, Smith continues to push the boundaries of electronic music and carve a path for the genre's future.
Who knew that two people could make so much good music? Dominic Lalli (saxophone/producer) and Jeremy Salken (drums) are the two members of Big Gigantic, a group they formed together in Boulder in the early 2000s. These two teamed up for their love of music and built a musical empire of devoted fans, or as they like to call their community, the "Big G Family." If you've not seen this duo live, with songs like "Sky High," put it on your list of must-see shows in your lifetime.
Denver Artists on the Rise
Nathanial Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Nathanial Rateliff grew up in rural Missouri and learned to play the drums when he was just 7 years old and started writing his own music a few years after that. When he was 18, he found his way out to Denver for missionary work, but continued to pursue his music and released his first album in 2010 titled "In Memory of Loss." With his rustic voice accompanied by his Night Sweats band members, Rateliff's new Stax-inspired music is sure to keep you coming back for more like his 2015 smash, "S.O.B".
This indie-pop duo from Denver is made up of a husband-wife team, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore. The couple met in college and decided on the name Tennis in reference to a joke about Riley playing the sport in college. They released their first EP in 2010 and have continued to wow audiences and fans to this day with upbeat, jangly guitar driven songs like "Never Work for Free."
Esme Patterson started off as a member of a Denver-group Paper Bird before deciding to go solo and share her work with the music world. Her sound is a mix of folk and pop with a touch of indie. Patterson writes her own music and constantly collaborates with other artists to grow the volume of her sound while still being able to stand alone as a prominent force, featured on her 2015 "Woman to Woman" album filled with response songs to famous songs about misbehaving ladies, including "Valentine." More of her music can be found on her website
This Colorado group does things a little differently than your average folk band. Their style of music is referred to as "transcendental folk," which mixes the typical folk sound with elements of Celtic fiddle tunes, traditional ballads, reggae, indie, bluegrass and an occasionally hip-hop beat or two, in songs like "Down to the Sea." The group of five members has found a dedicated fan following and they also individually and collectively lend their musical talents to other musicians. To hear more of this radical sound, check out the group's website.
Denver has become a home for many indie folk groups and all of them are at the top of the field. Paper Bird is no exception, having formed back in 2006 and self-released their first album just one short year later. Paper Bird is a six-piece band composed of guitar, drums, bass and three lead female vocalists who know how to carry a tune, like they do on their ode to their home state, "Colorado." A unique thing about this group is that they play in odd meters, which gives them a vintage sound unlike most bands. Paper Bird takes influences from all types of music such as gospel, rock ‘n' roll, soul, African rhythms and jazz. To read more about this amazing group, head to their website and put them on your next playlist.
Local Bands to Watch
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
As the name implies, this unique group started in late 2008 by veterans of Denver's underground music scene who all shared a love for darkly atmospheric music with grounding, pulsing rhythms. Singer Hayley Helmerick belts something wonderful over the top of tribal percussion and ethereal guitars, which makes for a sound that is all Snake's own. The band has shared the stage with the likes of The Black Angels, The Rapture and The Dead Weather to name just a few. Bringing a dark side to the rock world in Denver, this distinctive group is sure to tickle your eardrums. Enjoy a rocking good time with them by checking out their music on their website.
Rock ‘n' roll isn't dead thanks to bands like The Yawpers. This three-piece group from Denver picked their name from a Walt Whitman poem, titled "Song of Myself." The Yawpers play in a unique setup with one drummer and two acoustic guitars that make for a vivacious and addicting sound. They just released their first album in September 2015 that got rave reviews and even had Rolling Stone talking. Throw on your best rock ‘n' roll T-shirt and grab your air guitar, this is music that you can't sit still to. Check out the Denver Sounds video to get a glimpse of this band.
This man knows a few things about music and that might be because he started playing piano when he was just 5 years old and then cello when he was 11. Ian Cooke moved to Denver in 2000 to join the band Uphollow and ventured to working on his own music by 2005. Finding a strong following in Denver, Cooke continued to release albums and collaborate with different musicians, the 303 Choir (a children's choir that sings rock), Colorado Public Radio and dance companies to create some amazing sounds and performances. This insanely talented artist continues to amaze his fans with his diverse take on music and his ear for making beautiful music. Check out the Denver Sounds video to get a glimpse of this band.