Does friendly competition push artists to their full potential, or should that drive for excellence simply come from within?
Either side can be argued, but when the music scene loses a prominent figure, such as ItsreaLight Love, we're reminded that such arguments pale within the greater context of our lives, and that time and mortality rarely slow down for our artistic endeavors.
But is that really true? Zodiac held an emotional tribute concert the weekend before last to celebrate Light's life and her importance to the Colorado Springs music scene. And for many of the artists involved, it felt as though she was still tangibly here with us.
Kevin Mitchell, the local emcee who organized the event and performed his own passionate set, joked that Light would have yelled at him for nearly being overcome with emotion during a song they used to perform together, "Mr. Mitchell."
"We recorded it together for the A Black Day album, Undercast, and I had been trying to prep myself mentally for it all day. I felt myself choking up, but I could hear her in my head, saying, 'You better not fuck this up!'"
The event lasted 10 hours, so the crowd fluctuated, but the performances never wavered in quality or emotional impact, and the faithful were rewarded with excellent sets by Teqnik G, JayOin, Stoney Bertz, Bullhead*Ded and many others. Harriett Landrum, who played violin with the Hopeful Heroines and now performs solo under the moniker My Name is Harriett, attributed the camaraderie and excellent musicianship on display at least partially to Light's legacy as a performer:
"Throughout the night, people told stories about her. The thread that seemed to tie all of our thoughts together was that she did not tolerate mediocrity, and as performers we shouldn't either. Wave after wave of some of the best performers in town came together on Sunday to pay tribute."
Landrum, whose next performances will be on Aug. 7 at the We Us Our gallery, delivered a commanding performance, her powerful voice accompanied by looped layers of violin and, strikingly, literal thunder and lightning.
"I was bowled over by the command [Light] had on an audience. I went home and practiced ways to make people participate. It all harkens back to the poet's adage of respecting the mic, but just because we should, doesn't mean it happens. You have to make audiences want to move with you, have an experience with you."
The evening closed with a poignant set by Alphuh Eph, sitting at the edge of the stage with her acoustic guitar and delivering a truly soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a song that is difficult to execute with its deserved power thanks to decades of being covered into ubiquity. Landrum described it as "mellifluous, humble and jaw-dropping."
Meanwhile, if your band is looing for fame and fortune, good news! Proposals for programming and artist applications for Austin, Texas' 2016 South By Southwest Festival are now being accepted. You can also apply early for a discounted rate until Sept. 11, 2015, and the final applications deadline is Oct. 23. Further information and instructions can be found at sxsw.com.
As for upcoming local attractions this weekend:
Denver's Bluebird District Music Festival runs from July 10-12 at five locations with more than a hundred acts, including the only summer appearance of alt-country standout A. tom collins, electronica-funk ensemble SunSquabi, and local favorites the Haunted Windchimes and Modern Suspects. Tickets are now available, and all the shows are located within the same half-mile strip on Colfax Street. Making new friends on Colfax is always highly recommended.
Closer to home, the Black Sheep presents a full night of metal on July 10, featuring Littleton-based metalcore/thrash outfit In Death and Decay and Aurora's post-hardcore act September Downpour. Albuquerque metal act Knucklez Deep and local band Stavesail are also on the bill.
The same night at the Triple Nickel, long-running Washington punk band Neutralboy! comes to town, joined by Pueblo-based hardcore act Haj Paj and Colorado Springs' own Minus Well.
If folk is more your speed, neo-traditional trio All Those Who Wander plays at Pikes Perk on July 10. The group takes cues from American, Scottish and Irish folk traditions in service of a sound they feel reflects their home state of Colorado.
For some great hip-hop to support a good cause, Stoney Bertz and others will be performing July 12 at Zodiac for Christmas in July, a charity drive event to support Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention. Admission is $5 or a new toy to donate.
And finally, voting for the 2015 Indy Music Awards closes on July 12 at 11:59 p.m., so be sure to cast your physical or online ballot. The artist receiving the most votes in the People's Choice category will join two other top vote-getters for performances on the main stage at the Bristol Music Festival on Sept. 11 and 12.