Dairy Block is adding to its Artist on the Rise series this month, hosting the Antonio Lopez Band for two free concerts on Sunday, September 3, and Sunday, September 10. It's the sixth band showcased by Dairy Block in the concert series this year. The performances precede the release of the band's new album, Here We Are, on November 3. Two singles from the album, released as a double track, are already available on streaming platforms.
Antonio Lopez is soft-spoken for a frontman. Inspired by his experience growing up as a Chicano in the San Luis Valley, his lyrical folk songs are a means of expression, getting to the heart of what he wants to say. In “Secular Penitente,” one of the singles off Here We Are, the guitarist/vocalist contrasts the secular and the sacred by comparing his experience with that of his grandfather, who was a member of the Catholic fraternal order Los Penitentes.
Lopez says the album’s title is a reflection of his own musicianship as well as the collective breath society is taking in a post-pandemic era. “Pre-pandemic, I felt like a young struggling person,” he says. “And now, even though it's only three and a half years later, I feel like I've aged ten, twenty years in that amount of time.”
It's a tale as old as 2020: a tour canceled by COVID, the feelings of career insecurity and, finally, the bittersweet return to normalcy three years later. All this and more informs Lopez’s musical style and approach to life, and make for heavy themes on his second album. “If you're trying to live your life in a way where you're doing what you want to, there's this notion that it’s going to feel blissful,” Lopez muses. “But the reality is, if you're choosing to step out in that way, it's kind of scary. It's a vulnerable place; you're of living on the edge, of sorts. But if you lean into that, that's where you get closer to your ultimate desires.”
Along with Lopez, the band comprises Chad Mathis (bass), Christopher Scott Wright (drums) and Jonathan Sadler (marimba and vibraphone). Together the outfit has crafted its live performance to handle any setting, whether it be an intimate set or the noisy hubbub of Dairy Block.
The band's set list includes a few covers by the likes of the Cars and John Prine among a collection of tightly arranged originals. Sadler “really shreds on things,” Lopez says, elevating the group's live performance with “an instrument people don’t see every day.”
The release of Here We Are will be accompanied by a performance at Swallow Hill on November 3. For now, though, the band is looking forward to taking to the stage for two consecutive weekends after being selected for the Artist on the Rise series by Dairy Block’s marketing team.
Dairy Block’s goal with the series is to uplift new and talented artists, providing the publicity and resources that they might not have otherwise. The selection process pays specific attention to Colorado artists, especially those who have busked along Dairy Block, such as Carly King and Justin Garber, both featured artists this season.
This year, in addition to Garber and King, Ashlei Brianne, James Speiser of Roots and Rhythm, and Junebird Echo performed at Dairy Block, and another still-to-be-announced act will succeed the Anthony Lopez Band in October, the last month of the series. However, live music will not stop in winter, notes Maggie Ellefson, Dairy Block's marketing manager. From November through March, the Maven Hotel at Dairy Block will host a live-music series called Mavens of Music on Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. before returning to the spring and summer series in April.
Situated in LoDo, within the confines of 18th, 19th, Blake and Wazee streets, Dairy Block pays homage to the historic Windsor Dairy Building, erected in 1916, which serves as the housing structure for most of the restaurants and retail within the block. The development is owned by a partnership of McWhinney, Grand American and Sage Hospitality Resource, which began the Artist on the Rise series to provide lesser-known artists a chance to step into the limelight.
Ironically, the bands do so by performing in the Alley, Dairy Block’s “activated” pedestrian walkway with immersive lights, where patrons can enjoy food and drink from one of the many eateries in the area while listening to live performances from the jutting patios.
“We've got plenty of seating, the lighting is comfortable, and it's just a really fun experience down there whether you're coming for the concert or you just happen to stumble upon it. We get a lot of both,” says Ellefson.
Antonio Lopez Band, 5 to 7 pm. Sunday, September 3, and Sunday, September 10, the Alley at Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee Street, free. Here We Are out on streaming platforms on November 3. Learn more about the Antonio Lopez Band here.