City Cast Denver: big conversations in small bites
In this daily 15-minute podcast, Bree Davies dishes on the pandemic and the versatility of the ‘Denver sound.’
Bree Davies’ team was supposed to launch City Cast Denver on March 25.
The localized podcast, backed by former owners of the Washington Post and with pilot locations including Denver and Chicago, is slated to provide in-depth conversation on topics of arts, culture, politics and more, all in bite-size portions reminiscent of the New York Times’ the Daily.
Then, the Boulder King Soopers shooting happened. The crew moved up the launch to March 23 and featured a conversation with KUNC‘s Leigh Paterson to help process the tragedy.
“Things might not have been ready or according to plan, but we’ve got this platform and it’s necessary to be part of the conversation,” said Davies, a 2007 journalism graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“It’s important and relevant,” she said, “and hopefully can help others listening in feel a little less alone.”
Building connection is a theme for Davies, who grew up in Denver but avoids the “native vs. transplant” theme that plays out on bumper stickers across the Centennial State.
“I was born and raised here, but I’m not Indigenous,” she said. “All of us, however, have a need to feel rooted in the city we share today.”
That’s especially pertinent for new residents, who might lack understanding of the nuance, narrative and historical depth of a rapidly expanding city such as Denver. City Cast’s launch proved to be a chance to give back to the community Davies has been advancing for over a decade and a half – and a natural progression for the host of the podcast “Hello? Denver? Are You Still There?” covering issues as varied as food insecurity, mental health, policing and ballot initiatives.
In addition to the originally planned launch episode with famed restaurateur Frank Bonanno discussing how the pandemic has upended the dining industry (and talk of a potential mayoral bid), recent City Cast episodes feature discussions on vaccine eligibility and scooter profligacy, both through an equity lens.
The decision to deliver these in 15-minute chunks gives listeners an accessible depth to contemporary issues and reflects the reformatting of radio programming for the red-hot podcast landscape, Davies said.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to hold these conversations,” she said. “The plan is to create something for everyone, whether you’ve lived in Denver for six months or six generations.”
Connecting the dots
A longtime writer for Denver Westword and founder of the Titwrench Collective focused on music and arts from underrepresented community groups, Davies began her professional writing career with the Denver Post’s Reverb, a precursor to the paper’s arts-and-culture vertical the Know.
Her creative bona fides extend back further, however. After a stint writing for her school newspaper, she cut her teeth in the DIY scene writing for zines during her time at MSU Denver. Having taken “about a decade” to get from start to diploma, Davies said the school was the right place to study for a budding creative.
“I didn’t want the ‘traditional’ college experience,” Davies said. “(MSU Denver) was the perfect place for a student like me. It gave me the freedom to explore what I wanted to do and become who I wanted to be.”
And what she has become is an extraordinary facilitator. Today, she is a conduit between community members and the area’s movers and shakers as a media personality, as well as within the Mile High City’s perpetually vibrant, reinventive music scene. For Davies, the worlds are inextricably linked, with the “Denver sound” reflected in one word: versatility.
“We’ve been called the ‘Queen City Wasteland’; we’re not isolated, but we also don’t have the same established legacy or blueprint of a place like Chicago, New York or New Orleans,” she said. “That results in a sense of freedom of experimentation to be as wild or weird as you want without constraint.”
That approach makes room for the city’s often-under-the-radar history of jazz, experimental noise and hip-hop influencers working in genre-bending creations, giving it the space to capture yet another part of the local story. Case in point: local luminaries Los Mocochetes, who provide the City Cast theme and represent a soundtrack to what Davies referred to as the “past, present and future of the Chicano movement here in Denver.”
Other local musicians she lauded include Felix Fast4ward, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Lady Gang, the Milk Blossoms’ Michelle Rocqet and Entrancer, along with her former professor and Blue Note Records artist Ron Miles.
“When you know (Miles) is from here, of course you can hear that experimental playfulness in his work,” Davies said. “The music and art worlds here are just as much a part of Denver as politics and history – they’re at the root of the city.”
Like an improvised solo, there’s joy in exploring the uncharted and connecting the dots, which is exactly the purpose of City Cast. Davies pointed to one of her favorite little-known locations: the standalone municipality of Lakeside, best known for harrowing rides such as the Wild Chipmunk at its namesake amusement park, the exclave completely surrounded by Denver city limits and with a population of eight.
“I see the podcast as a chance to explore these stories together,” she said. “The more we’re invested, the more we get to know where we’re at, the more we’re inclined to get engaged with your local community.
“We’re all Denver in that regard.”
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