I am a huge proponent of community-building. When we buy music and other creative works from local artists, we are not just keeping our local economies healthy, but we also are building connections within our communities that make our towns more resilient and just generally better places to live.
Colorado has lots of fantastic local talent. Still, with radio still declining into an outlet for major music labels peddling the same stale bubblegum music, discovering great local music can a challenge. So, here’s a list of ten arists or bands in or near Fort Collins whose music and shows I highly recommend if you are looking for stocking stuffers or gifts for music lovers this holiday season.
1. Bonnie and the Clydes (Country) Bonnie Sims heads this fantastic recently established country band, backed by 5 excellent musicians. They have released 2 CDs so far, a self-titled debut album and their second album release “Wrong Side Up“. We may not be anywhere near Nashville, but I suspect that this band is good enough to attract a following even in that elite capital of Country. And, while these guys do have a pedal steel guitar, and a fiddle, and the occasional cowboy hat or riding boots, the Country-haters of the world would probably still enjoy at least the live shows. Bonnie and the rest of the musicians in this group are excellent entertainers, regardless of what genre they are playing. They will be playing a show called “A Country Christmas Part II” in Longmont at the Dickens Opera House next weekend, December 15th and 16th(info).
2. SHEL (Country/Pop/?) Just as it was hard figuring out what genre Josh Groban belongs in, SHEL is pretty much without a genre. These 4 sisters make exquisite music, with finely crafted harmonies, complex rhythms and beautiful songwriting, and a lush stage presence like something out of a fairytale storybook. Think Grimm’s tales, not Disney, because while the songs these ladies craft are rarely depressing, let alone twisted, there are still darker streaks and grwon-up edges to their lyrics, and healthy doses of interesting minor keys to keep their shows real and relevant. SHEL has released only one album so far, their debut self-titled album, but their music has been featured in mainstream commercials and elsewhere on mainstream media. They are Fort Collins local girls, and one of them studied music here in the CSU music program, whose choirs I have been involved with this past year. This fantastic group will be performing at the Aggie on December 31st, and has a few other shows around Colorado over the next few months. They will be playing a show in Nashville on the 10th.
3. Danielle Ate the Sandwich (Folk) Though Danielle moved to Minnesota this year, she is most definitely not gone yet from the local music scene. Danielle Anderson has been performing around Fort Collins under the stage name Danielle Ate the Sandwich for about 5 years, and has developed a loyal following both locally and over the Internet where her youtube videos have been quite popular. Danielle Ate the Sandwich has released several excellent albums, including the most recent release “Like a King“. We may see this talented lady performing again in Fort Collins in January, but most of her shows in the near future will be in or around the vast icebox that is Minnesota. Danielle has released a 5-track Christmas EP this year (came out Dec. 4th, currently available only via bandcamp), so if you need some fresh tunes for your holiday playlist, here are 5 great holiday tracks hot off the press.
4. Fierce Bad Rabbit (Alternative Rock) The Universe is making me choose this year between Fierce Bad Rabbit’s CD release party at Hodi’s Half Note and the SHEL/Elephant Revival show at the Aggie, for my New Years Eve entertainment. I’ve never seen Elephant Revival except on youtube, and I’ve only seen SHEL at an outdoor festival in a park, while I’ve seen Fierce Bad Rabbit twice this year in addition to hearing their New West Fest show from my volunteer station around the corner. But, if I was not going to the SHEL show, I’d be seeing Fierce Bad Rabbit that night for sure. This band has released one full length album so far, Spools of Thread, and will be releasing album #2, The Maestro and the Elephant, at the end of the month.
5. Mama Lenny and the Remedy (Blues/Soul/Funk/?) Five women and three men, all fantastic people and excellent musicians, with the sort of synergy and enthusiasm that can’t help but result in amazing music. This band seemed to have adopted Road 34 Tavern & Bikeshop as their weekend home over the past few weeks, and since I live a few hundred yards from this venue, I’ve seen a lot of this band recently. Sadly, these folks won’t be on stage together again until next year, though several of these musicians are in multiple ensembles and might be playing more shows in those groups. Punches & Hugs, this band’s debut album, is a snapshot of the dynamic lusciousness that these people create together. At the moment, Mama Lenny & the Remedy is in the studio working on album #2, which we’ve heard bits of already in the past few live shows.
Note: Artists not signed to the giant music labels have a variety of distribution systems through which to sell their albums. One shop that carries a nice, if small, selection of local albums, including several of the ones listed here, is Bizarre Bazaar, in Old Town Fort Collins. I am sure there are other shops selling CDs of these and similar artists, and if you are able to see these folks live, they all bring CDs to sell at their shows as well, of course.