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Kenny Mason’s On-Stage Swings from High Intensity to Poetic Storytelling Sells Out a Captivated Cervantes’ Other Side

Evan Dale // April 19, 2024

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One of those venues that packs its capacity – and that capacity becomes suffocatingly felt – even when the lovers’ R&B shows sell out, Cervantes’ Other Side is far from the little sister, the redheaded stepchild, or any other diminutive descriptor that may accompany its identity as the smaller side-by-side to its namesake next door neighbor: Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom. Rather, upon sellout, it’s an old school full house where two chandeliers of grandeur decorate what is otherwise the ideal sticky-floored, low-staged, hollow shell for throwing down some banging performances that feel reminiscent to both the raucous energy of a bygone hip-hop moment, and an earlier era for Denver’s live music scene.

When the right artist comes through, there isn’t a better place in town to catch them. And Kenny Mason is that right artist.

There’s something about his auditory aesthetic that extends itself simultaneously to rap’s past, while paving at breakneck speed towards its future. Brash, lightning-fast poeticism projected through an oft throat-scratching register, and yet charismatic, melodious, and slowed and soulful when he wants to be. Invariably, his sweet spot is the highest of high energies where cuts like his verse and hook from the collaborative Stick shake the room. He channels something inherently rockstar while still managing to pack an authentic punch for a sold-out show at an unassuming venue. And most importantly, he knows just the right time to flip that switch.

To be fair, Kenny Mason has more than enough switches to flip. His catalogue is amassed of high energy anthems and collaborative features that explode with every trunk-rattling thud of the beat. But he’s also fluid; a dynamic modern day mosaic of hip-hop’s immense breadth. He effortlessly floats in the same stratosphere as JID and J. Cole, not only without being drown out, but while anthemically rising to zenith of their collaborative energies. And he doesn’t just align with their upturnt anthems. Much like his friends and frequent collaborators, he boasts a knack at placing the emphasis of his artistic effort either on the dial he’s turning up, or the immersive story he’s telling. But being able to convey that sort of range live, without losing oneself as a performer is one of the more difficult feats for a modern artist.

The moment Kenny Mason comes on stage at Cervantes’ Other Side, the floor is already packed in. Barely a walkable path from the front door to the back bar, the amorphous, sweat-soaked blob of humanity that defines that path’s edges, pulses outward with every thud of the bass and contracts with every well-swung, anthemic bar – of which Kenny Mason has many – and of which this crowd memorized en route to the show. Yet, when he slows it down, gets introspective and poetic to tell part of his story by way of the kind of track Kenny Mason’s prolific catalogue also has a lot of – the audience evolves with him, albeit never without still chanting along to every single line. That sort of crowd control is rare, made rarer still by the immense stylistic breadth that defines his sound.

Tirelessly, for more than an hour, he showers the Other Side in a methodically flowing barrage of heaters turned up to ten, and more poetically intrinsic, oft-emotionally endowed depths into the stories of his path to this point. He balances both without breaking as a performer. Never losing the crowd to the mellower introspection or to the crushing mosh, his is a performance custom fit for the full length of his set time, and for the authenticity of an old-school venue like the Other Side. By the time we all emerge to a drizzly spring sleet, in need of the fresh air, yet still attached to the powerful wavelengths inside, satiation.

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