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Fort Collins has finally gotten angry

In the Whale performing at East Coast

Fort Collins has long been known for fedora-wearing beard folk, ukulele-strumming singer-songwriters and indie bands with violins that fall on the softer side of the spectrum. Every scene has its feel, its message—Seattle has apathy; Denver has raw, fuzzy power. But the city we call home has something else—‘everything-OKness’ maybe?

This year’s FoCoMX certainly had its quota of acts diligently throwing waves of ‘Everything’s OK!’ but against a backdrop of the Boston Bombings, of the Waco explosion, of grey skies and second winter, it’s beginning to seem like maybe everything’s not OK.

Friday’s headliner Fierce Bad Rabbit was packed, but against the third-week backdrop their upbeat brand of indie pop rock just didn’t seem to reflect the times. Likewise, Danielle Ate the Sandwich drew an impressive crowd to Everyday Joe’s but was, I hate to say it, a little tired sounding (before you label me a hater, consider that I’ve long considered myself a DAtS fan).

On the other hand, it seemed to be the harder, the faster, the dirtier acts that said what people wanted to hear and provided something for the audience to live up to rather than settle into.

Awaken the Masses (full disclosure—the singer, Dale Tormey, is an employee of Rocky Mountain Student Media) had everyone at East Coast moving with their fast-paced formula of metal/punk/hardcore. We all needed a little screaming.

Make no mistake about Shotgun Shogun from Laramie, WY—though they describe themselves as rock-pop they are American rock’n’roll in its purest form, playing from an amalgamation of influences they deliver a sound with all the wind-swept character of the state they come from—raw, dirty and timeless without being out of touch with the right now.

In The Whale delivered what I consider to be one of the best performances of the weekend at East Coast on Saturday night. Coming from Denver, this is the two-piece’s fourth FoCoMX experience. ITW played the kind of raw, powerful rock’n’roll that needn’t be given labels like ‘punk’ or ‘metal’ because in truth it’s neither and both—it doesn’t rely on genre crutches. Several songs were played under the drone of a recorded air-raid siren blasted at full volume, a chillingly appropriate effect.

It’s like two people who had never been exposed to any music from the last 20-30 years were tapping into the same mystical channel of electric anger and excitement that The Who, the Sex Pistols and others tapped into long ago, and inventing it anew for themselves.

I believe that Fort Collins will stay the town we all know and love, singer-songwriters and all. There won’t be any movement to trade the violins and ukuleles for electric guitars and kick drums, and I’m A-OK with that; I love Fort Collins just the way it is. For one weekend, though, Fort Collins needed an outlet for anger, aggression and fear. I’m glad I got to be there to see it happen.