Fort Collins, Colorado, was transformed into a free music Mecca for the weekend of August 20-22, 2010. Bohemian Nights at New West Fest provided six music stages to fill the downtown area with fans of all ages and walks of life mingling together to enjoy the varied sounds.
Pep*Squad, from Denver, started the Fest on Friday with their ’80s/Cure/Talking Heads inspired sound. Linden Street was not very crowded at this point, but they still rocked it out. The next band from Denver, The Heyday, encouraged more people to join the free music party with their vocal heavy, alternative rock sound. Fort Collins fans enjoyed the sing-along style that The Heyday brought to the stage, and each member of the band seemed to be having a blast.
Meanwhile, in Old Town Square, performers of magic held the attention of throngs of people of all ages, many in Flobots T-shirts. There were “No-Waste” stations prevalent along the closed off streets for composting and recycling, and most of the people in the growing crowd were very respectful. Free water was offered at the Lyric Cinema, and the Beer Gardens seemed to cover a lot more area than in years past, much to the delight of adult festival goers.
Thumping bass playing turned Linden Street into a disco in a trance as people packed in, and everyone started crowding forward, in anticipation of Flobots. Then local music patriot and KRFC deejay, Chris K. appeared and said, “Three years ago here, Flobots made an appearance. And now they have blown up!”
The crowd screamed as Flobots took the stage and got it shaking. Fort Collins started clapping along to the MC dueling of Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 on “Defend Atlantis,” off their latest album, “Survival Story.” Flobots performed a powerful mix of new songs and tracks from “Fight with Tools” that kept people of all ages dancing. Their cover of the Turtles’ “So Happy Together” brought everyone together singing along. Their last song was their breakout hit, “Handlebars,” and the crowd recognized it after two notes on Mackenzie Roberts’ viola.
Bohemian Nights founder, Pat Stryker, was spotted enjoying a VIP seat on the patio of the East Coast with a perfect view of Flobots and the Linden Street party.
Saturday brought out the booths, more music fans, and a lot of sunshine. There was a nice, lively start with local country rock man, Romano Paoletti on the Library Park Stage. Good Gravy! opened up the Mountain Avenue Stage at noon, and even though the street was hot, their driving beat and fantastic bluegrass sound got the small crowd moving and cheering.
In the Creative Garden, a new addition to this year’s festivities, fine art and fine food was accompanied by the Acoustic Stage and a performance stage that featured theater, dance, and comedy. Ben & The Invisible Mutes had a solo banjo set early on in the day that provided sweet sounds to the art-lovers mingling in the shade.
Boa & The Constrictors brought old school rock reminiscent of Elvis, in outfit and sound, to the Linden Street Stage before Chris Daniels & the Kings and their blues-y style shook things up even more.
An impromptu drum circle around a tree on Mountain Avenue and Remington Street gave another place for people to express themselves creatively. Snake Rattle Rattle Snake were on the main stage and had a pop sound that quickly turned heavy with prominent drums. Colcannon at the Library Stage was an Irish escape, complete with flute.
“This is Where You Want to be,” sang Denver’s Kinetix, and in the beautiful heat on Mountain, they were so right. “Get ready to dance,” they said before playing a few more fun songs, one with a vocal riff from a Sublime song, and a traditional styled “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover. Kinetix had a similar vocal approach as Sublime, but with a unique, pop-rock sound that made you want to dance.
Kizumba Salsa Band got a crazy Linden Street dance party in full effect while the sun was still out and blazing; meanwhile, Grieves got all the hip-hop heads jumping at the main stage on Mountain. Peace Officer tore up the main stage next where temperatures reached around 100. They definitely burned it up playing tracks like the Colorado-friendly, “Sunshine” off their latest album “Contraband,” and “Warrior” off sophomore LP, “Insurgency.” It was an emotional show for some of the guys in the reggae-turned-hip-hop group, as their families were there to see them perform for the first time in years.
Trichome jammed out on Linden with a fantastic horn section and continuous dance-friendly beats. Michaela Rae offered up some blues beyond her years on the Library Stage where the shade attracted several festival goers. Motorhome was rocking hard while people were standing in line for meat on a stick, beer, or a flirty festival dress. Kids had their own area complete with pony and carnival rides, a video game tent, and inflatable enclosures to jump in.
Fierce Bad Rabbit played the Old Town Stage that featured mostly indie and folk bands during the day. They had a light, airy, pop-rock sound with a talent on violin, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Their lead singer said he was sick, but he still jammed out for the packed crowd.
Danielle Ate the Sandwich performed on the Acoustic Stage with her “friend Dennis” who she seemed to love making feel uncomfortable with her off-the-cuff jokes. He played stand-up bass and she was on ukulele for a very large audience. Denver-based bands Meese and The Informants played rocking sets at the same time on different stages, and Paper Bird and Fort Collins’ own Euforquestra competed for crowds before the headliner of the night, Earth, Wind & Fire.
Mountain Avenue was more crowded than ever before, with crowds over 10,000 cramming in to groove Saturday night. The simulcasts on Linden and Library Park Stages were enjoyed by easily another 10,000 people. They played all their hits and the high notes were perfectly hit, just like it was 1969. Top 10 Hits “Serpentine Fire,” “Shining Star,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “September,” and “Let’s Groove” kept the crowds dancing until well past 10:00 p.m.
Sunday was another cloudless, scorching day in Fort Collins, and the covered song, “Hot Hot Hot,” performed by the Pan Jumbies on Old Town Square Stage to start the day was extremely appropriate.
Musketeer Gripweed caught the ear and tickled the funny bone on Linden Street, and even though it was early and blazing sunshine, lead singer Jason Downing’s antics; dancing, drinking, joking, and his incredible harmonica talents kept the crowd smiling.
The Acidophiles created tripped out electronica sounds on Old Town Square and Spring Creek’s bluegrass jammed on Mountain Ave. Wire Faces got Linden Street rocking out hard and Drag the River bared their soul on Mountain.
Funnel cake scents were wafting through Library Park, blending with Matt Morris’ flowing voice in the air, turning a hot Sunday into a gorgeous day. His song “Love,” and the intro into it where he encouraged everyone to stand in the shade and dance, did eventually get some of the lethargic crowd to move. During “100,000 Strong,” he mixed in a little bit of “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” before joking and singing about how steel strings in the sun are not a good idea. His Denver charm and delightful voice made him a favorite of the Fest.
The Legendary Earl Scruggs closed out the festivities on Sunday afternoon, drawing an incredibly diverse crowd out to Mountain Ave. Cowboys mixed with hippies, children, dogs, moms, and dads danced with college kids and professionals.
All in all, Fort Collins stayed true to itself and the hometown friendly vibe that is always alive here. There were a lot more people to get along with, but the music brought everyone together in the most beautiful of ways. Thank you New West Fest for another amazing Fort Collins summertime weekend.