LOHI Music Festival: An Inside Perspective

Highland Tap & Burger
Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis
Videos By Tony Whaley (
DMTv) &
Jhonette Purdue & Brian Rempel (

MusicMarauders is all about perspective. How we tell each story, is based on how we experienced the events in which we write about. Sometimes we are merely a fan in the back of a massive concert field and other times we are staring down from a rooftop on a sold out crowd for an event in which we helped to promote. For this piece, it was the latter. LOHI Music Festival was an overwhelming success. This is the story of that success... of the people who poured their time and passion into attempting something bigger than we had ever taken on.

Since The Highland Tap & Burger's big entrance onto the Lower Highlands scene, it has been a place of community, passion for food (service), and music. 2011 would mark LOHI Productions' first attempt at a festival and although it went alright, there was much to be learned and a lot to improve upon. 2012 would be a year of reflection and implementation, with planning sessions, meetings and discussions of plenty leading up to the event.

The day of the festival all of the pieces fell into place precisely as planned by LOHI Productions. As the 10:00 hour hit, festival-goers began to enter the grounds and get settled in. Bryan Benner took the stage to start the event also stepping out onto the stage between sets to sing praise for the sponsors. Bryan Benner was followed by The Rob Drabkin Band as we set up the second stage for the transition into Family Funktion & The Sitar Jams' first set of the day. With seamless accuracy we made the first stage transition of the morning. Family Funktion & The Sitar Jams came to life for a half hour of unique sitar jazz/funk & mind bending space. As quickly as it began, Sitar Jams' set ended and we tossed it back to the main stage for Colorado band, Euforquestra! By all accounts their set was great.

Next on the main stage was reggae/dub band Dubskin, who took the stage to a moderate afternoon crowd. People seemed to really dig Dubskin. Following Dubskin on the main stage was The Heavy Pets, who had sold out The LOHI Pre-Party the previous Wednesday took the stage once again. As expected, their set was flawless. Their sound, instrumentation, tones and their transitions were all clear indicators of their growing success on the scene. It was around this point when 32nd Ave. in Denver's Lower Highlands truly came to life. People were smiling, dancing, dining and enjoying this fantastic collection of talent in the heart of their neighborhood. It was a sort of block party of epic proportions with the vibrancy of the community shining bright under the incredible incredible sun. The Highland Tap was the place to be in Colorado that afternoon evening. Things began to progress in a delightful fashion!

The Highlight of the second stage schedule and Highland Tap regulars, Garrett Sayers Trio jumped up to a crowd of hundreds. It was a special moment to see the trio step out of the Tap to such a large and appreciative audience. Up to that point in the festival, this was the hardest that folks had gotten down. Through incredible compositions and clear chemistry, Garrett, Patrick Lee and Jonny Jyemo thrilled the many familiar and even more unfamiliar faces. I smiled in delight from the side of the stage watching as a proud cultivator of this local music scene. Air Dubai came next on the main stage, drawing a large crowd as the energy and anticipation for the evening built.

With the return of the crowd to the second stage, Garrett Sayers Trio tore the house down. People were riding the front of the stage and dancing uncontrollably. One of the trio's biggest fans, Ryan Garrett was yelling and having fun in front of the stage, also basking in the glory of the moment. On the side of the stage Motet members gathered to watch their band mate display his side project. Following Garrett's set, one of the evening's two headliners, Particle feat. Michael Kang, took the stage to a near sold out crowd.

Paul Brown (Director/Owner of HTB) motioned Carly and I up to the roof for a better view. As we approached the edge of the Highland Tap & Burger's roof I was taken back with emotion at what I saw. The festival was approaching a sell out and as I looked around I saw my parents, so many of my friends, Highland Tap regulars and people simply having a blast. Over my radio I heard "Can someone please bring the 'SOLD OUT' signs to the front gate?" To which I responded with a "Congratulations everybody!" and received a scream in the radio from Abby Radbill (Artist Relations). It was then that I realized, this was potentially the proudest moment of my life. This was the culmination of years of dreaming and executing a passionate plan. I hugged Paul and as I glanced back I saw that we were joined by Juan Padro (Owner of HTB) & Kevin Eddy (Owner of HTB). Juan congratulated me, to which I was speechless. Glancing back at the main stage, Particle was absolutely killing it and looking as if they were having the time of their lives.

A deep breath in and I was climbing back down to reality. With Particle's closing notes, we fired up the second stage once more for Human Agency. What they did was fine and folks seemed to enjoy it, but personally I was hoping that they would be joined by drummer Jonas Otto for a more refined and instrumental sound. Headliner, The Motet commanded the attention of the sold out crowd, with one more wave of tickets being released and sold out prior to their set. By all accounts it was a powerful set, but as The Motet played, we at the second stage scrambled to assemble the stage/gear for the late-night VIP set inside of the Highland Tap. With fury we set up, soundchecked and prepared for the final sets of the evening.

Out back of The Tap I introduced the Padmanabha Brothers (Sitar Jams) to DJ Logic who had turned out purely to enjoy the event. As The Motet ended, we headed inside for one last musical stand! Sitar Jams open the late-night to a moderate crowd that grew as folks collected themselves. Through an hour of energetic sitar driven fusion, FFSJ gave it all they had on the first day of their Colorado tour. Following their set Narayan was approached by Steve Molitz (Particle) who gave praise and insisted on doing work with Sitar Jams in the future. An extended set up and the tossing of one of the band's belligerent sound guys and the final set of the evening/early morning was underway!

The closing set featured Signal Path with Michael Kang, Steve Molitz and Pete Wall! Paul asked who I thought we should have on the late-night and this was my first response. Kudos to Paul for making this vision translate into reality! To think that The Highland Tap would ever see Signal Path with said guests is mind-blowing. Yet there we were, staring the beast in the face as the improvised extravaganza began. For the most part, it was great. Each musician contributed a unique and raging aspect to the compositions and as the set progressed, folks/the band got more and more intoxicated. The second half of the extended set boasted some pretty sloppy moments, but ultimately it was a party of epic proportions.

Following a full day of music, partying, great food and the best of times, folks stumbled back to their houses and apartments. To say the event was successful would be a shear understatement. To assume it will be a staple for years to come, returning as Denver's premier city festival year after year, bringing better line-ups and fun new themes seems more fitting. Sure you can call me biased... or you can talk to any one of the folks who turned out for LOHI Music Festival. The following morning at The Highland Tap, staff and owners were cleaning up both the restaurant/bar and the street as well. To see the owners pushing brooms after throwing an event of LOHI's magnitude was humbling and reminded me of why The Highland Tap & Burger is so well regarded in Denver, Colorado.

Carly's Photo Gallery



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