With 2015 winding down and coming to a close, we’ve had time to sit back and reminisce on the year and all it’s brought our way. We’ve heard lots of music: some good, some bad, some loud, and some like we’ve never heard before. One of the albums we had the chance to hear for the first time this year was the freshman release from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and I feel comfortable saying it just might have been one of the most defining albums of the past 365 days. A few weekends ago we were treated to the sights and sounds of our hometown heroes returning to the Mile High City, rocking The Ogden for two back-to-back sold out performances. This wasn’t our first time seeing the soul-filled group of troubadors, but it certainly was different than any of the times before. This group’s success in the past year has put Denver’s music scene into new light, challenging perceptions of the old, and ringing in a new era for performers and fans alike.
This summer Denver became properly acquainted with Rateliff’s new project in a backyard along south Broadway during the annual Underground Music Showcase (The UMS). A yard so packed that folks were forced to climb rooftops just to get a glimpse of the band, it was no surprise that the name Nathaniel Rateliff had this kind of pull in the scene. Playing in groups like Born in The Flood and performing under his own solo monicker since 2007, he is certainly no newcomer to to Denver - and neither is the rest of his troupe. Featuring performers like Wesley Watkins (Air Dubai, The Other Black) and Patrick Meese (Meese), The Night Sweats are a power-packed group, one that I certainly hadn’t expected when I first heard there was a new band in town. Seeing them for the first time that warm, summery night, there was no denying the power or energy of the group’s performance. Familiar, yet distant all at once, you had to be daft to not understand that “S.O.B.” was destined for success.
After months of relentless touring, a full sweep of the late night television circuit (including a standing ovation from Jimmy Fallon), a jaunt across Europe and a skip through Canada, The Night Sweats returned to Denver for a jubilant homecoming to close out the year. While our new local favorites were off across the globe, fans had the time to process their music, and these shows at The Ogden were some of the first shows where a majority of the audience seemed to know more than just their radio single. With songs like “I Need Never Get Old”, “Thank You”, and “Howling at Nothing”, Rateliff and crew painted a picture on stage not only of their own personal experiences, but of Denver as well.
These songs might not have been written about Denver, but the gentle, Van Morrison-esque tunes due the city justice by presenting a story completely unique to our town: the story of a steadfast artist who’s constant pursuits were supported by his city until he hit the nail on the head. The story of a musical community so strong that Nathaniel could find just the perfect mix of performers to bring his ideas to life, right here in our city. The story of love lost, of struggle, strife, and of eventual success both lyrically and literally. Our city’s music scene has seen success, it’s seen failure, it’s seen loss, but it relentlessly marches on with pep in it’s step and soul in it’s stomach - an endearing quality not often found elsewhere.
This homecoming show for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats was a beautiful tribute to the city they’re from, to the music they’ve made, and to the fans who have lifted them up. A foot-stomping, sing-along filled evening, I don't think we could have asked for a better show to close out 2015. No one knows for certain what the future holds for these performers, or where 2016 may take them, but I think they were everything we as a city needed in this moment: a beautiful reminder that we carry on together into the future, better than we were alone in the past, and brighter than we could be in any other way.