Last weekend, Old Town Fort Collins was packed with music fans from every corner of Colorado for FoCoMX, an annual festival that boasted an impressive offering of over 250 bands playing at 20 venues in the course of just two days. The sheer mass of music for the still-developing Fort Collins music scene has led some, such as The Covz‘s Ian Shroff, to describe FoCoMX as a “mini South-By-Southwest“, and it certainly lived up to the hype. The festivities had me bouncing between venues and genres, from hip hop at the Aggie to prog rock at the Lyric. FoCoMX offered an insane amount of musical diversity in a short amount of time, and to commemorate the excitement, I decided to highlight five acts that stood out among this year’s eclectic mix of musicians.
Hometown Indie Hip-Hop heroes Wasteland Hop was the first big surprise of the festival for me. The group presents an odd-at-first yet totally unique mixture of rock, hip hop and folk elements, employing two MCs and a violinist on top of a traditional rock lineup in their music. The large lineup allowed the band dynamic stage presence as MCs Mickey Kenny and Steph Jay commanded attention with their rhymes and the violinist Liz enthralled the audience with her tight lead playing. The atmosphere was awesome: the band was totally into it, the crowd at the Aggie was grooving and dancing, and I left totally hooked on Wasteland Hop’s folksy, upbeat rhythms. I need this band’s groove in my life now. Just take a listen for yourself.
Shatterproof‘s music on the other hand, is much more straightforward. The Fort-Collins based rock
group plays a textbook style of almost-edgy moody hard rock that borders on hardcore at times, with dramatic violin thrown in to keep things interesting. This is the kind of music that High School Me would have absolutely eaten up as he grimaced through freshman year, scowling at everyone who didn’t understand him. Current Me, not so much. However, what the band may lack in musical inventiveness they more than made up for on-stage. This band was a hell of a lot of fun to see live. Singer Branson Hoog rocked a sling over his right arm during the show (apparently the band members themselves are not shatterproof), but didn’t let that slow him down as he darted all over the stage, headbanging, standing on the monitors (to the horrified screams of sound techs everywhere), and even jumping down into the crowd for a few verses. The guitarists were equally enthusiastic showmen, headbanging and jamming out on their instruments like kids would do on air guitars. T.J. Wessel played the absolute crap out of his violin, too- I’ve never been so exhausted watching someone play before. The band had an absolute blast on-stage and the audience at Hodi’s Half Note responded to it, making for a really fun, action-packed atmosphere. Even though I’m unlikely to listen to their music much, Shaterproof put on one of the most energetic and exciting performances at the festival, and would definitely be worth seeing again.
The first band of the festival I saw truly epitomized the spirit of FocoMX in their show. Blue Taboo, an up-and-coming Art Rock group from local Rocky Mountain High School is the best new band that nobody has heard of yet. Blue Taboo kicked off the festivities for the Lyric Cinema Cafe venue on Friday with a few quirks and no shortage of energy. The show started off a bit sour, being delayed by ten minutes due to technical issues, but the band quickly made up for it with their inspired musicianship. Singer Jared Janzen just about tore the roof off the venue with his soaring vocals, reaching a fearsome crescendo by one of their closing songs, “Two Worlds,” that triggered goosebumps on everyone in the audience and made it hard to sit still in the theater’s small environment. Guitarist Will Brauch and Bassist Kyle Petty were equally impressive, employing fun, complex rhythms into their playing that left the progressive rock nerd inside me grinning. These are easily the best high-school-aged musicians I have heard, and the cherry on top of the delicious prog sundae the band delivered was the percussion from drummer Julian Ferrara. Ferrara put on an absolute clinic, supplanting the already creative percussion heard on the band’s album with slick, zesty fills. The band also debuted a new song, “Breather,” and its percussion part was absolutely sizzling, hot and tasty. This band made the most of their brief appearance at FoCoMX and left me hungry for more. I need more delicious percussion in my ears, and the world needs more artsy progressive rock in their ears. Listen to them now and tell me they’re not impressive.
Choice City Seven
Before FoCoMX, I knew very little of the restaurant Mainline in Old Town beyond the fact that it played good oldies music that you could hear as you walked by. Based on this totally well-informed reputation of the place, it was no small surprise (or delight) to me to catch the R&B outfit Choice City Seven on the rooftop patio of Mainline. The local six-piece (what happened to seven?) outfit offered the classic sound of Oldies groove and R&B, with vocalist Chris Leck’s soulful delivery popping with horns from Jerremiah Teaque and John Giordanengo to add flair to a rhythm already potent for dancing. They featured a number of catchy original songs peppered with jazzy renditions of dance floor classics like “Jump In The Line” that had the crowd rocking. Despite being the youngest person in the audience by at least 20 years, the band had a timeless sound to them that appeals to all ages, delivering a danceable groove that will always be a part of any good music festival.
The Covz were one of the last bands I saw at FoCoMX, and they provided an inventive, memorable finish to the weekend’s festivities. The California-based indie group played a subdued style of rock more suited for a thoughtful drive along a sunset coast than a loud concert, but played with the passion of a band with something to prove. The band stood out early, dressing up in suits for their performance and projecting slick visuals to go along with their music. The band’s intensity and stage presence varied throughout their performance, with vocalist Ian Schroff giving all he could in emotional crescendos in a Adam Levine-y manner, and stepping down to offer smooth serenades to female members of the audience during more intimate songs. The most memorable moment, however, came near the end of their set. The Covz had previously set a stack of their CDs by the foot of the stage earlier in the show, which members of the crowd happily relieved them of. However, Schroff decided to raise the interest further and proceeded to fling copies of their album Frisbee-style into the audience during a late interlude. It was a hilarious and inventive way to get their music into people’s hands, and many people left the show with a copy of the band’s debut release One Day This Will All Make Sense, including yours truly. While the stunt could have taken a painful turn for the worse had the CDs been jewel-cased, it was a memorable, quirky way for the band to make themselves known amidst their relaxed, thoughtful style of rock. It certainly made for a good anecdote and pleasant finish to a fun festival weekend filled with eclectic bands and inspired performances.