Meet the nominees of the 2023 Colorado Sound Music Awards, brought you by Georgia Boys BBQ and Initial Capacity!
We’re thrilled to announce the 2nd annual Colorado Sound Music Awards! Spend some time getting to know each of this year’s nominees.
Below are profiles of each nominee, all of whom are active Colorado musicians, bands, or institutions. All profiles are written by Adam Perry.
On the Rise
This category showcases Colorado bands and musicians who are getting noticed, gaining traction, and actively growing their audience.
2MX2 self-styles as an “alterNATIVE pop hip-hop band,” but it’s more complicated than that. The reggaeton you hear blasting out of every window in the Caribbean is made accessible through a Colorado filter by 2MX2, but the beloved young Denver band also mixes in traditional Mexican influences, intoxicating pop, and a passion for activism and youth education. Though it has no full-length album yet, 2MX2 and its bilingual hip-hop have exhilarated Colorado crowds for a few years now, empowering listeners to be active in politics and social issues, and leap out of their seats with inspirational songs like “I Ain’t Changing.”
Meghann5k fronts Addie Tonic, on the surface a straight-ahead bubblegum/garage-rock band in the vein of the Donnas. The high-energy group features shredding guitar, though, and a much bigger sound for a trio than you’d expect. Meghann5k’s lyrics and vocals cut through that huge sound with sarcasm, wit, and anger; “Captive” puts a bow on that combo with the kind of house-party rock ‘n’ roll bands like Thee Headcoatees pioneered in the ‘90s. With no full-length album yet, Addie Tonic is sadly on a hiatus from live performances while Meghann5k receives breast-cancer treatment, but a highly anticipated EP is expected to drop this summer.
There is something magical about Kiltro’s juxtaposition of dreamy Latin string work and gentle, heartfelt vocals – like mystical Los Lobos side project Latin Playboys jamming with Iron and Wine. However, Kiltro can also groove – “Guanaco,” from the group’s new album, Underbelly, beeps and boops like a Broken Social Scene creation, with a fascinating Latin underbelly (no pun intended) that represents Kiltro’s unique, and exciting, contribution to Colorado music. With its intoxicating percussion, curious vocals, and layered instrumentation, this is a band whose growth is something to keep your eyes and ears on.
Featuring the illustrious and hard-rocking guitarist and bassist John and LuLu DeMitro, Pink Fuzz began as Branded Bandits while the siblings were growing up in Boulder, obsessing over classic rock and listening to local groups like the Yawpers from outside bars they were too young to enter. The group’s most recent release, 2021’s searing Live at Silo Sound, showcases how far the DeMitros, along with sought-after young drummer Forrest Raup, have come since blazing a heavy trail as Boulder teenagers. All three are awe-inspiring masters of their instruments, and the DeMitros alternate as lead singers, representing one of the few renowned young heavy bands making a name for itself in Colorado, where bluegrass and jam bands abound.
The silky rock ‘n’ roll of Volores has a subtle Western tinge that would be perfect for a Once Upon a Time In the West remake set in modern Colorado. Drums rollick, bass provides a heartbeat, electric guitar jangles, and Shelby Maxwell delivers romantic poetry with a velvet voice. Bassist Nathen Maxwell is “also” in the worldwide Irish-punk phenomenon Flogging Molly, and finds time to record and perform with Volores between Flogging Molly tours. Shelby, who is married to Nathen, is a force on stage and on Volores’ passionate and driving debut album, Ages, which dropped earlier this year.
Artists in this category are uniquely part of the fabric of our extraordinary state, gracing stages around the world with the spirit and soul of Colorado.
Montana native Cary Morin has been in Colorado since just after high school, and he’s become an essential, integral, and unique part of its musical and cultural landscape, blending indigenous wisdom and spirit with folk, blues, and authentically Western Americana. He’s performed at just about every venue in the state and is preparing to release his ninth album, Innocent Allies, this fall. The Fort Collins icon, who is a Crow tribal member with Assiniboine Sioux and Black heritage, sets an example for young Front Range musicians that the road is as important as the studio and the land is just as important, and has as much to say, as the people on it.
The music performance and interview show eTown was once just a metaphorically important part of the northern Colorado landscape, but since the institution – featuring Nick and Helen Forster – moved into a permanent, independent home in downtown Boulder, it’s been a literal part of the landscape, too. Since 1991, the nationally syndicated radio show has been recorded in front of live audiences, who get to enjoy Forster’s eye-opening interviews with some of the world’s most talented musicians and songwriters and also see them perform, often with Forster (formerly of the heralded bluegrass band Hot Rize) sitting in. eTown honors great musicians as well as individuals who make a great difference in the fights for the sustainability of our planet, something that’s also the focus of eTown Hall, the show’s all-in-one music venue, recording studio, and community center.
Recently elected to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, Hazel Miller is a Kentucky native who has been singing blues and jazz since she was a little girl in Louisville. Forty years ago, she packed up and drove herself and her children across the country with her sights set on becoming a star in Los Angeles. She made it as far as Denver and never left – and music lovers in the Centennial State are fortunate to be able to enjoy Miller’s big, loveable voice and sweet, generous personality year after year. Known mostly as a home-run-hitting live performer – with her own band and in collaboration with everyone from Al Green to Big Head Todd – Miller is underrated as a recording artist, but her stunning 2020 version of “Hard Times Come Again No More” shows this local treasure can knock it out of the park, audience or no audience.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
Country-punk icon Slim Cessna, a fourth-generation Coloradoan, got into punk rock and goth music in Boulder after obsessing – as the son of a preacher – over Johnny Cash and other country legends with one foot in the church and one in the rowdy life of a touring musician. His first songs, with Blood Flower and then the influential Denver Gentlemen (with David Eugene Edwards), naturally were laden with Christian imagery, and when Cessna finally founded his own project (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club) and eventually recruited songwriting darkhorse Munly J Munly, one of the most iconic and inimitable bands in Colorado history blossomed. The Auto Club and its numerous side projects sometimes seem more beloved, and successful in Europe than the United States, but along the Front Range, Slim and his crew are a household name.
Founded by musician and motorcycle enthusiast Walter Thompson in the 1910s – and originally a dance hall, charming resort, and the Thompson family home – Mishawaka Amphitheatre is now a world-renowned riverside venue that attracts not only heavyweight Colorado bands but some of the best national acts, from Band of Horses to Murder By Death. Since Fort Collins music luminary Dani Grant took over the Mish in 2010, the 1,000-capacity venue’s increasingly gleaming character has come to match its historic charm, offering wonderful food and drinks along with an incredible soundsystem.
Outstanding Stage Presence
These bands and artists have incredible presence, captivating audiences every time they perform live.
Alysia Kraft’s rocking new single, “Electric Blooms,” may surprise fans of Whippoorwill, her alt-folk band, or her dreamy 2022 solo release First Light. However, Kraft has been jumping all over Colorado stages like a super hero, and fronting Front Range rock ‘n’ roll staple the Patti Fiasco, for so long it’s hard to remember when energetic northern Colorado music existed without her. Electric Blooms, her new album, brings Kraft’s well-known high-energy stage presence to life on wax by mixing ‘90s alt-rock with unique Western flavor, and we’re excited to see this incredible live performer make the tunes from Electric Blooms come alive at local venues.
Renowned duo INTHEWHALE is typically classified as an alternative-rock band, but the truth is heavy – and unique. What started as a solo endeavor for singer-guitarist Nathan Valdez while studying educational psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley quickly transformed into a blast furnace of noise and heartfelt lyrical content, almost miraculously created by just two passionate musicians – Valdez and drummer Eric Riley, both products of right-wing religious families. Owing as much to the chugging early-‘90s metal of Helmet as the creativity of Deftones, INTHEWHALE has represented Colorado mightily with explosive sets everywhere from Lollapalooza to South by Southwest, and opening for acts like the Darkness and Toadies. Covering subject matter as heavy as their brutal guitar and drums, Valdez and Riley have left unforgettable marks on audiences all over the country.
Siblings Miguel and Brenda Aviña were born in Mexico, raised by a rock n’ roller father, but have long called Denver home. Their wildly energetic and awe-inspiring band, iZCALLi, blends Latin influences with alternative rock and metal, resulting in unforgettable live performances that have left indelible marks on Colorado audiences everywhere from bars to festivals to the Gothic Theater and even Coors Field. Talented drummer Luiggy Ramirez rounds out the core iZCALLi three, and the genre-defying group is augmented by heralded local musicians of many kinds at its shows. Alternating vocals in Spanish and English, the Aviñas write, record, and perform original music that carries as much activist-minded energy as it does pure rock bombast.
N3ptune & Rusty Steve
Hip-hop, R&B, gospel, alternative – it’s hard to describe not only the power but the diversity of Renaissance, the 2021 album by N3ptune & Rusty Steve. The duo and their collaborators impressively match the power of Renaissance at their live performances, combining the album’s drama and almost violent emotion with fashion, dance, and light elements apropos of both a Beyonce and a Marilyn Manson show. N3ptune, for his part, isn’t afraid to set high expectations for the group’s live performances, telling fans and journalists to be ready to get mesmerized and inspired. This kind of music – especially with this kind of subject material, including childhood trauma, religion, and much more – is not normally associated with queer, Black men, but N3ptune & Rusty Steve are all about breaking boundaries, especially on stage.
Aja Black and Big Samir of the Reminders are emcees; children raised by globe-trotting military families; songwriters; cultural ambassadors and activists; producers; and parents. They’re also a happily married couple, and put on badass live performances far and wide – including a rousing recent set at Ball Arena in Denver opening for Erykah Badu. Based in Colorado Springs but constantly spreading their message on the road, Aja and Samir build a huge, inspiring sound as the Reminders – which could be described as a world-music hip-hop group – but, with their combination of live music and progressive workshops, they also build community.
Outstanding ‘Secret Ingredient’
Not every player in a band is out front. This category celebrates some of Colorado’s ‘secret ingredients,’ from exceptional instrumentalists, to people behind the scenes or helping artists create their best work.
The Blasting Room
Did you grow up listening to world-changing breakthrough punk rock by the likes of Black Flag and the Descendents? Did it make you start playing music, or even start a band? Well, since 1994 you can make your own record with essential Descendents and Black Flag veteran Bill Stevenson, drummer and producer, right in Fort Collins at the Blasting Room, whose co-owner is also an accomplished drummer, producer, and engineer. Grammy-nominated Andrew Berlin, visionary producer for everyone from Gregory Alan Isakov to Gasoline Lollipops, rounds out the Blasting Room’s big three, but the studio’s dedicated and acclaimed team is substantial and highly acclaimed. The Blasting Room has been the secret ingredient behind countless crucial Northern Colorado albums, most recently DUSK by Plasma Canvas.
Color Red Records
Founded by Wales native and Leeds College of Music alum Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds, Denver-based Color Red set out to be a label with a sound as well as a vision. That sound is ambitious, pleasing musicians, music geeks, and jubilant live-music aficionados by embracing experiments like Electric Beethoven’s Hear No Evil – a jammy, genre-traversing ode to ‘ol Wolfang Von – to the soulful, accessible jazz-funk of Object Heavy’s new album, Love & Gravity. Last year Color Red even put out a long-awaited Telmo Fernandez album, El Madecido, adding the Spanish guitarist’s work to a long run of Color Red releases that always find their home with the New Mastersounds, who ironically recorded last year’s grooving and psychedelic The Deplar Effect very far from home, on a farm in Iceland. An integral part of the Colorado music scene, Color Red France and Color Red Japan are also leaving meaningful footprints for the ambitious label abroad.
Greta Cornett, Marketing Manager and Talent Coordinator for the Bohemian Foundation, somehow keeps herself together every spring during FoCoMX, while the rest of Fort Collins is spinning and rocking. The Columbine High School and Colorado State University alum volunteers each year to be the brains and boldness behind FoCoMX, which she cofounded over a decade ago and has regularly played as a talented trumpeter. Hundreds of bands play Fort Collins venues large and small every year in part because of Cornett’s hard work, but not nearly enough of them know the incredible energy and expertise she’s put in over the years, starting with the very first FoCoMX, which she put on out of her living room. As the Fort Collins Music Association board president (and board member since 2007), Cornett is a keystone of the Northern Colorado music scene.
In its own words, Sonic Guild “builds communities to support the creation and performance of extraordinary new music,” but how does Sonic Guild do that? The answer is philanthropy, both financial and intellectual. Unless you’re a Silver Spoon, it’s tough in the United States to create and sustain a band, chiefly because paying for the expenses of touring and making albums is unsustainable while, you know, also paying for the expenses of having a home, food, clothing, and utilities. Creating and sustaining a band is particularly tough, however, in Colorado – where the nearest major cities to play in are at least a day’s drive away, while East Coast, West Coast, and even Texas bands can hit numerous markets easily. Sonic Guild offers grants and advice to burgeoning musical artists, and its Colorado chapter has supported an astounding number of fantastic local artists, from Big Richard to Bevin Luna.
A Texas native, guitarist, and singer, Taylor Sims initially moved to Colorado to help lead the now-defunct bluegrass sensation Spring Creek. Eventually he joined his wife, Bonnie, as an integral member of Bonnie and the Clydes, which played just about every venue in Colorado until dissolving a few years ago as the couple branched out to score an international hit with “I See Red” under the moniker Everybody Loves an Outlaw. That project is still doing exciting things, while the husband-and-wife team also perform widely (and just released the new single “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”) as Bonnie & Taylor Sims. This summer, Bonnie is on the road with skyrocketing bluegrass band Big Richard, while Taylor is enjoying life as a hired gun for Montana singer-songwriter Madeline Hawthorne and also keeps busy with solo shows, a side project called Gingerbomb, and sit-ins with local favorites like Clay Rose of Gasoline Lollipops. A coveted lead guitarist, Sims is also a gifted singer and frontman – a Swiss Army knife of country, Americana, and rock ‘n’ roll unparalleled on the Front Range.
Colorado Artist You’d Drive 105.5 Miles to See
Who is your all-time favorite Colorado band or musician? Who would you drive many miles to see play live?
This is a write-in category, so the field is wide open. The artist or band must be based in Colorado and be actively working right now. One vote per person, please.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Introducing our first-ever Colorado Sound Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating a person or group who has contributed immensely to the Colorado music community.
Known to literally thousands of Colorado musicians as “Goat,” Chris Kresge, otherwise known as “Chris K,” has been a beloved part of our music scene for decades. Born in Los Angeles and raised everywhere from Alaska to Pennsylvania, Kresge has lived in Colorado off and on since 1976 – although the veteran’s Colorado journey began in 1973, when he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. Kresge studied acting and voice in high school and college, and eventually transformed his hobby of DJ’ing parties into playing records for airmen in the service and then radio stations, most recently The Colorado Sound. Kresge, also a well-known country singer-songwriter and guitarist, loves music so much that he married his late wife, Pattie, on stage at Oskar Blues in Lyons. Booking, promoting, performing, and spinning Colorado music has turned into a life’s work for the “grumpy old goat.” Retirement has arrived for Kresge, but – good news for all of us – he will continue to produce his long-running Colorado Playlist for at least a few more years.
The 2023 Colorado Sound Music Awards are brought to you by:
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