As seems the rule more than the exception these days, there are always at least 3 events scheduled on the same day that I ought to be attending, an the Fortoberfest weekend was no exception. I missed the first few hours of the Saturday line-up at this music festival, because I was instead taking photos at a 5k run my non-profit helped put together. Thankfully, the Escape Goats, who were playing while I was away from the festival, had been on with Liz Barnez the day before, so I missed less than I might otherwise have. I actually had a companion along for the afternoon, once I got downtown, which was a novel change.
In some ways taking in festivals with multiple stages is easier when you travel solo, since being up front near the speakers makes conversation nearly impossible and if you are focused on taking pictures and notes for the blog, that makes it a lot more like work and a lot less like hanging out with friends. Still, it gets lonely and depressing being alone for every show I see. I was glad to sacrifice a few photos to have company for a few hours, and at least my friend has worked as a journalist, even covering an entertainment beat for a while, so she understood what I was doing and was always willing to hold something for me if I needed a hand free to work my camera. I still got some good shots, enough that my battery died just before the last band started to play. We got to the festival in time to see the last part of the Lindsey O’Brien Band show, enough to get a few pictures and a vague notion that they are really good. Then it was time to find food, and after we finished our soup and salads we wandered over to the other stage, where Bop Skizzum was performing.
I am really not a hip hop fan and not always a huge fan of funk except as live music for parties, but I have to admit that Bop Skizzum was a lot better live than they are in the recordings I heard on spotify. This band performed as the opener for Cobra Starship at CSU’s fall concert, and I was singularly unimpressed with what I heard when I was trying to decide whether I would buy a ticket for that show. Perhaps this means Cobra Starship is better live as well, but in any case, I rather enjoyed Bop Skizzum’s show, especially their covers of classic funk tunes and of course their cover of “Bust a Move”. I didn’t even mind the rap all that much; Shane “SF1” Franklin, the emcee of this group, has a style that works well with the music without forcing too much of that urban East Coast vibe that just isn’t ‘Fort Collins’. I’m not likely to be rushing out to buy an album, but I’d recommend this band to my friends who prefer more mainstream music, for sure.
If I cover too many shows that include ‘real’ rock bands like Eldren and Sour Boy Bitter Girl, I really will lose my hearing before I’m 40. Being right up next to the speakers for a band full of fiddles and upright basses is a bit easier on the eardrums. Still, I grew up on hard rock in the 80’s, so every so often it’s nice to get back to the music I used to identify with almost exclusively. Eldren is a cool band, and even sports a fiddle still. This band includes several fellows who are easy on the eyes, at least, and their covers of bands like Pink Floyd are decent, inflecting their own style onto their covers while still doing justice to the originals with great instrumentation and decent voices. Unfortunately the sound system on the Walnut Street stage, where Eldren, Sour Boy Bitter Girl, Lindsey O’Brien Band and You Me & Apollo played, had some obnoxious feedback issues that crept in mostly during high volume sections of their songs, but that also made the more delicate parts of Eldren’s Pink Floyd cover less clean. It was clearly the electronics, not the musicians, though, and no doubt under better equipment conditions these would have been really great shows. As it was, they were still good.
The two bands I was looking forward to were ones I’d seen before, Reckless Red and Mama Lenny and the Remedy. My friend stuck around through the end of Reckless Red’s show, and she seemed to really enjoy their show. There were a few people dancing by the end of this show, too, which is always a good sign. It was a bigger stage than the Old Town Square stage, where I’d seen them before, and while I liked that the smaller stage puts the band only a few feet from the audience, the bigger stage meant that the band could move around a bit more. They seemed to like not being so cramped, and they drew in a pretty good crowd during their show. Their guitarist brought along several more guitars for this show, including the very pretty mother-of-pearl guitar I found so entrancing last time I saw this band.
Of course, Mama Lenny and the Remedy also put on a great show, and their audience was packed. In part thanks to playing before Alison Krauss earlier this season, this band is getting a very strong local fan following, and they had a crowd that left barely any room up front for us camera people. The music was great, and included all the songs I know now from their album, plus some new ones which will be on the next album they will be recording soon. Enough of the crowd was familiar with some of these songs that the audience was singing along to many of them, and even the camera-wielding reporter guys who seem to be impervious to most of the music they photograph were dancing around a bit as they maneuvered for better spots up front.
This band also keeps folks with cameras busy, because they are very active and playful on stage, and some of the best moments for photographs in their shows occur randomly throughout their show. They seem to be the sort of band that feeds off their crowd’s energy and gets increasingly squirrely, in a good way, of course, as the evening progresses. My friend had to head home before this last show began, so I was on my own, probably a good thing, because I am cowardly enough that I might not have gone back behind the stage after the show to talk to Laniece (the lead vocalist for the band) afterward if I’d been with someone else. I suppose I ought to have gotten a photo of myself with her so that when these lovely people become world famous musicians I can show off that photo of me with Laniece before they made it big. At least I have a sticker, though, and she knows now who ‘ravenmount’ is, so when I write in my memoirs that I met her once she might still vaguely remember me. 🙂
Sadly, while I had a great front row spot for You Me & Apollo, as well, my camera died just as they started playing, and I left halfway through their set, because by then the hours of hanging out near loud speakers really had set in and I had too much of a headache to stick around longer. They were very good, though, and I hope I’ll get to see more of them later on. They had drawn a good-sized crowd too, but Dubskin, the reggae band that was on the other stage as I left the downtown area, must have had a much bigger crowd. I felt a bit sorry for all the people who live near downtown Fort Collins that night, at least those who don’t like reggae. I could hear Dubskin’s show for most of my walk home, so they were audible still almost a mile from the stage. I never actually set eyes on Dubskin, but I can definitely say I heard almost their whole show from that night. They were good, too, and made the walk home rather entertaining even with my headache and sore swollen feet. All in all, it was a great first annual event, and hopefully the city will get to have many more of these Fortoberfest events in years to come.