Last weekend Fort Collins hosted a brand new festival, one which despite being not much different in spirit from the existing Tour de Fat traditions, seemed to be a welcome addition to Fort Collins’ entertainment calendar. Fortoberfest, put on by the Downtown Business Association, is dedicated to three things Fort Collins seems to do well- bikes, beer and live music.
The festival was intended to also involve costumes and bike-decorating, very much like Tour de Fat, but this part of the festival didn’t quite catch on this year. Still, the streets lined with booths focused on bikes and beer seemed to be quite successful, and the music, a mix of rock bands, R&B, and other music genres were wisely geared towards a younger crowd than New West Fest, the Nelsen Old Town Car Show or the Jazz experience. Very few of the CSU students I talked with in the week leading up to the festival had any idea it existed, so perhaps there is still an information disconnect between the city and the university when it comes to events like this, but turnout seemed good anyway.
Fortoberfest only lasted two days this year, starting Friday (Sept 21) in the early evening and continuing all day Saturday (Sept 22), and only used the two large main stages on Saturday. Still, this meant there was a lot of great free live music available both days. Friday the line-up consisted of 3 bands, of which I saw 2- Liz Barnez (& the Escape Goats), Otone Brass Band. Friday night I also ran into Danielle, of Danielle Ate the Sandwich, while I was walking downtown for Fortoberfest, and took in her excellent solo show that evening after seeing the Otone Brass Band.
Liz Barnez, with the Escape Goats as her supporting band, opened the festival Friday night. This was a great opening act for the weekend, drawing in people from the downtown area who were already there enjoying dinner or drinks on the patio spaces near the stage. Liz has a great bluesy voice, and a stylistic range that kept her show interesting from start to finish. I enjoyed hearing Liz after listening to so many bluesy bands with younger singers, because while all of the folks I’ve heard are great, voices do mature, and the sound Liz Barnez creates is one that the younger singers will just have to wait for. Do check out any of her albums and watch her videos on youtube if you have not yet. One thing the younger singers tend to have is a facebook page, and if you, dear reader, are already a Liz Barnez fan, hopefully you have visited her facebook page and clicked ‘like’.
The Escape Goats were also very good, and I was glad to see them on the stage Friday night, since they were a band I knew I would have to miss on Saturday. The Escape Goats- Joe Schicke, Marty Rein & Steve Amedee- perform blues, funk, soul and rock, much of which appeared in their show with Liz Barnez. This group also has a facebook page, with a nice selection of photos of escaping goats in their photo album. The Escape Goats formed just last year, so they have not had time to build up much of a discography yet, but the individuals who make up this group have many years of experience as musicians. Listening to the banter on stage between these guys and Liz, clearly there is a lot of interconnected history in the Fort Collins music scene despite the complexity of the contemporary music industry. These connections make for healthier, more vibrant music cultures, and the four people on the stage for this show certainly form a part of the core of our local music culture.
The Otone Brass Band were the other band I saw on Friday night before heading off to a different show away from the festival. The Otones play jazz, with plenty of brass and even a jazz tuba. A friend of mine has a son who plays jazz tuba, so I was particularly interested in this group for its tuba player. Several of the musicians in this group write music for the group, and while I am still not a ‘jazz person’, I really enjoyed this show. There were several classic tunes in their set which I recognized after writing about so many jazz shows this year, and quite a few original songs which fit seamlessly alongside the classics. I loved the variety of instruments in this ensemble- most of the jazz groups I’ve seen just have the usual trumpet, trombone and saxophone, along with a drummer, a bassist (electric or upright) and maybe a guitar or clarinet. Only in the bigger jazz bands do you usually see a tuba, soprano sax or the bigger deeper saxophones.
I only saw the first 40 minutes of this show, but I liked that there were plastic chairs provided up front near the stage, a new thing compared to earlier festivals using this stage area. It was so much comfier than sitting on the concrete, even though it did make taking pictures a bit more constrained. Without chairs, most of the audience sits further away, so there’s plenty of room near the stage for photographers. And, the men holding the instruments in this second show were all rather easy on the eyes, which always makes photography more fun. I sadly took up a spot closest to the tuba, which was in an awkward spot without enough light, and thus had a hard time both with getting good shots of the tuba player and with getting clear shots of the cute guy way on the other end playing the gigantic saxophone.
(To be continued in the next posts, Danielle Ate the Sandwich and Patrick Dethlefs, and Day 2 of Fortoberfest)