In an era when radio and record-company gatekeepers wield considerably less influence than they did pre-digital, the music world has splintered into a broad spectrum of equal-opportunity niches. But with so many genres so easily accessible, individual scenes can remain isolated from each other.
From Denver to Los Angeles, you'll find that hip-hop, indie-rock, funk, folk and jazz artists rarely ever play together. So it's somewhat surprising that Colorado Springs musicians have in recent years become considerably more collaborative.
Some of that, to be sure, is related to scale. A small city can only cough up so many musicians, and they've got to interact with someone. And while the Springs scene isn't exactly a multicultural melting pot, there is a spirit of cooperation you're unlikely to find in larger, more competitive cities.
That became especially obvious during the inaugural Indy Music Awards Festival back in 2011, as local musicians teamed up for one-off collaborations: Glam-punk artist Dave Mansfield hooked up with members of Americana group the Lo-Fi Cowboys, who've since morphed into the more alt-rock Lazy Spacemen. Rapper Black P freestyled with jazz-funk jam band the Charlie Milo Trio. R&B singer-guitarist Molly Boyles guested with local blues-rock hero Jake Loggins.
And when musicians weren't performing, they wandered among the three stages discovering artists from completely different genres. (The third free IMA festival will take place Sept. 5; watch for further details, along with this year's awards ballot, at csindy.com.)
Out in clubland, you'll find numerous live music venues that dabble in a variety of sounds. The most diversified would arguably be the Black Sheep (2106 E. Platte Ave., blacksheeprocks.com), an all-ages club that has hosted numerous genre competitions, from rap vs. metal to punk vs. hardcore. The venue is also one of the primary focal points for local hip-hop, metal and indie-rock acts, as well as for their national touring counterparts.
In the hip-hop realm, keep an eye out for artists on the Sound Powered Engine label, home to the popular Bullhead*ded collective as well as Milogic, who also performs with local hip-hop "supergroup" A Black Day. Joining Milogic in the latter is Jayoin from Mad Trees, Hott from Audible, and Ahmad Mitchell from Fidel RedStar. In addition to the Black Sheep, you'll find most of these artists playing at local venues like Zodiac (230 Pueblo Ave., zodiacvenue.com) and down in Pueblo at Phil's Radiator (109 E. C St., 719/671-5503).
Another important talent in the local hip-hop scene is Black P, who collaborates with emcees like Liquid Assassin and has hosted regular rap showcases at Union Station (2419 N. Union Blvd., unionstationrox.com). Less likely to be found on local stages is Colorado Springs hip-hop duo ReMINDers, who've lately been opening shows for Snoop Dogg and touring with Brother Ali. This summer, they'll be going to Minneapolis to play Soundset, which bills itself as world's largest indie-rap festival.
Another vital scene is centered on Blank Tape Records, which began life five years ago as a vanity label for Inaiah Lujan and his Pueblo cohorts in the Haunted Windchimes. The group, which played its first shows at the Downtown Bar (103 Central Plaza, Pueblo, 719/544-1499), performs original music that shows a reverence for timeless artists like Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family.
In 2011, the Windchimes were chosen to play several songs on A Prairie Home Companion; they've since toured extensively, but still play larger local venues like Stargazers (10 S. Parkside Drive, stargazerstheatre.com) and Colorado College's Armstrong Hall (14 E. Cache la Poudre St., coloradocollege.edu).
Meanwhile, you can catch various Windchimes members and their side projects at more intimate venues around town, from downtown neighborhood cafe Lofty's (287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0024) to west-side bars like Meadow Muffins (2432 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0583) and the Ancient Mariner (962 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-5503). The same goes for the rest of the Blank Tape crew, which includes the Changing Colors, Mike Clark and Joe Johnson.
Grant Sabin, another prolific artist around town, is involved with Blank Tape as well as with Kings of Space, a collective of early-20-something indie musicians that includes the Flumps, Briffaut and We Are Not a Glum Lot. Members of all three groups play on Sabin's bluesy Blank Tape debut, Anthromusicology.
Over in the realm of soul, jazz and funk, Sunday Night Soul Sessions at Zodiac kicked off back in October of last year. The monthly event features special guests backed by a house band that includes Charlie Milo and Kopesetic Soul's Lyrick. You'll also find many of the area's most talented artists playing alongside national acts at the annual MeadowGrass (meadowgrassmusicfestival.org) and Blues Under the Bridge (bluesunderthebridge.com) festivals.
There's more, of course, including top-notch indie outfits like El Toro de la Muerte, thunderous grindcore bands like Malakai, innovative folk and blues artists like the Hopeful Heroines and Chauncy Cradall, fast-picking jamgrass purveyors Grass It Up, Oi-punk favorites 99 Bottles, and electro-pop innovators Claymore Disco.
This article only begins to scratch the surface of the local music you'll find here in town. For more in-depth coverage, you can follow the Springs music scene every week in our Reverb column. And don't forget to get out there and catch some of the above artists live — whether it's in your favorite genre or one you're just curious about. It's a discovery process well worth undertaking.