Meet Alterity, Eva Claire and the Pigz, three of Denver's most interesting high school bands

The 3rd Annual Bringing Back the Arts music competition is this Sunday, March 16, at the Bluebird Theater. Admission is free. The competition is part of First Lady of Denver Mary Louise Lee's Bringing Back the Arts initiative, designed to bring greater attention to local artists and to encourage the creative endeavors of Denver's youth.

It features ten high school bands -- finalists among the many that submitted songs to a panel of talent buyers and musicians. The finalists are Alterity, Coasta the Messenger, Mia B, The Social System, Lutes and Shatters, Abraham Lincoln High School Choir, Eva Claire, Reborn, Picture Perfit Quintet and The Pigz. They represent a broad spectrum of musical genres and will compete for three cash prizes.

We had a chance to speak with three of the finalists about their music, where each has played beyond anything like a school talent contest and their inspirations. If the level of sincerity, care for craft and sense of humor we encountered is any indication, Denver's next generation of musicians is already giving us something worth seeking out.

Alterity - Blues/Rock

Westword: When did you start playing guitar?

Wyatt Leonard: Six or seven years ago, when I was ten or eleven. I started on electric. An Epiphone Les Paul Jr., a very cheap guitar. I honestly think I started with the game Guitar Hero and I decided to start playing real guitar. It kind of expanded from that and has taken over.

Were there particular artists in the game that you took to?

I got really into Led Zeppelin when I was younger. When I was in middle school I would just try to learn every Led Zeppelin song. More recently I've gotten into really old Delta blues from the '30s and '40s and stumbled into this band called North Mississippi All Stars. Luther Dickinson, the guitarist in that band, I've been very influenced by him recently. I saw them when they were in town at The Gothic in February and that was one of the greatest shows I've ever seen. They're doing a lot of what I want to do with Alterity so there's that connection. I picked up some tricks from Luther just from watching him.

There's some verbiage about restoring faith in humanity on your Facebook bio.

That was kind of a joke. The serious part about it is that we feel not enough people are into blues music and it's dying. So the serious part of that was to get people into the blues.

What is it about the blues that you think is important to keep doing?

It's really easy to connect to. It's still really relevant today because the songs and the style is forever.

Even though you're in high school, you've played shows outside the context of a school.

Probably the coolest place I've played is Red Rocks with this music school program I attended. With Alterity we've played at The Gothic Theater for a battle of the bands. We're playing at the Bluebird in May and of course this Sunday we're playing at the Bluebird too. We've played at Seventh Circle Music Collective quite frequently. Eck's Saloon and we've played The Church a couple of times.

Are there other local artists with whom you feel you have some kinship?

We have some friends in a math rock band called Boats Without Oars. We have lots of friends in bands and it's a really cool community.

As a band based in blues, do you do covers as well as originals?

We like to cover Son House and Robert Johnson and all those old blues guys. We also cover newer stuff like White Stripes because I really like Jack White. We actually also cover some heavy stuff like Sleep, "Dragonaut." We like to do as wide a variety of music as possible.

You identify Detroit and Delta blues as your musical roots when it comes to rock and the blues. Why that instead of say Chicago or Kansas City blues?

A lot of that music developed before African Americans could votes so there's this really dark undertone to it. It was just an acoustic guitar and one man type of situation and it hit me way harder than Chicago blues did or anything.

Please continue to read about Eva Claire

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