Moving is an extended challenge and chore that sucks away hours-worth of energy and motivation, so this month is proving a bit rough with respect to music blogging. Nonetheless, this lifestyle is addictive enough that I am still out most nights, even if not for as long, or with as many great photos to show for my efforts. “Hanging in there” may be the best I can manage for another few weeks till all the boxes are acquired, packed, moved, and unpacked, but I’ve still taken in some fantastic shows this past week.
The first show of the past week worth noting was of course the Lucky Joe’s open mic. As with all open mics, the Lucky Joe’s weekly open mic is only as good as the musicians who play there. The show last Sunday, July 7th, featured a couple really good musicians. Tyler T., one of my top 5 favorite local musicians, played a solid set, despite still being not completely recovered from being sick all the previous week. His guitar-playing was as good as ever, of course, though his voice was a bit raw-sounding on a few songs. Still, he sings his songs generally with a fairly raspy voice even when he’s in top form, so aside from having a narrower range, his singing sounded pretty good in this set.
Cary Morin, another Lucky Joe’s open mic regular, also played a set last week, not quite as awe-inspiring as the previous week, but still very good. He also brought Tyler up to join him for a few rough 2-guitar arrangements of some of his songs. The last of these sounded pretty cool, and I could hear where the other two arrangements were headed, so perhaps we’ll hear some more of this duo as they iron out these song arrangements a bit better.
The highlight of the night was singer-songwriter Anthony Adkin’s set, though. Anthony has been living in Fort Collins just for the past few months, trying to find a niche for himself in our local music scene. He’s played at a few open mics that I’ve seen, and will be playing a 3hr show in Berthoud later this week, but it sounds like perhaps last week’s open mic was one of his last performances here in Fort Collins for a while. It was also by far the best I’ve seen him play, so it is a shame he has not had more luck trying to settle in here, now that he seems to be settling in and rediscovering his musical voice in the context of this scene. Hopefully he’ll come through town occasionally once he’s moved away, and maybe we can entice him back to stay eventually.
Avo’s Open Mic was actually the next highlight of last week. This open mic was pretty solid all the way through, but especially near the end we had some fantastic sets. Several members of Futaba came out to keep Josh Lange company as he was running sound for the show, and they, plus Josh, jumped on stage for a set. I have still never seen Futaba, yet, but the fragment of this group we heard at this open mic were amazing. I hear many bands every week, and very few of them really sing great harmony vocals, but these guys have, if not quite barbershop quartet high-quality vocals, really really good local rock band harmony vocals.
Then, three of the members of the Avo’s house bluegrass band were on for a set, and eventually they were joined on stage by a few of the Futaba fellows, for a particularly excellent super-group. They did forget the second verse of Wagon Wheel, such that the audience sang the whole verse before the group jumped back in, but then again there were enough audience members who knew the whole verse that the song went on without a break anyway. It is nights like these that keep me covering this open mic every week, really. Avo’s open mic has the right atmosphere to encourage such spontaneous music-making, especially near the end when there are still musicians around who want to play, and no real reason to stop them at the end of 20 minutes.
Besides open mics, there were of course other great music shows around town this past week. The first show of the Lagoon Summer Concert Series occurred last week, a jazz quartet headed by jazz pianist Mark Sloniker. SpokesBUZZ keystones Dani Grant and Julie Sutter celebrated their birthdays with a joint birthday party at Hodi’s, with 4 bands and some great snacks, including red velvet cupcakes. And, the Escape Goats released their brand new CD On the Lam with two CD release shows, the first at Avogadro’s Number, and the second at Road 34.
My favorite shows of the week were both near the end of the week, the Tyler T. show at Paddler’s Pub on Friday night (of course), and the Finspiration Festival on Saturday. The first was of course Tyler, and as he’s one of my favorite local musicians, his shows have an almost unfair advantage when it comes to picking favorites.
On top of that, Paddler’s Pub, a venue I’d never made it out to before, is a gorgeous space, with an outdoor stage tucked up against a bunch of tall cottonwoods so that the performers can look out at the greenery of the foothills and the ridge of short mountains that mark the edge of the Rockies. It did rain almost the entire afternoon and evening, a very light but persistent rain, so there were fewer people out and even fewer people willing to brave the rain to enjoy an outdoor concert. I, in my raingear, was pretty much sitting on my own to enjoy this 4 hour concert, while all the rest of his audience was tucked away under the pub roof nearby, though there were actually a decent number of people listening from more sheltered spots. I could do without the almost exhibitionist experience of being the only person in the front row at a public concert, always something that makes me cringe a little, but still, this was a fun show.
The Finspiration Festival, which I wrote several posts about already during the show and leading up to it, had over 8 hours of really great music, so it also had an unfair advantage when it came to my picking favorites this week. Better Than Bacon has shifted their sound slightly now that they are a 3-piece band, with their music becoming more heavily blues-influenced and less lyric-driven than previously. I liked this band a lot when it was a 4-piece, and really enjoyed Ryan’s voice and songwriting, but the current version of this band is still very good, and will hopefully continue to be as successful as they want to be. Their show at Finspiration included one song with James Yearling’s wife singing lead vocals, which worked surprisingly well. Perhaps we’ll see this band migrate back to a 4-piece with a female lead singer?
Their set and the one just before theirs, Alysia Kraft and Staci Foster, were probably my top two favorites for the day, but had I been able to stay for the Patti Fiasco, they might have taken the top spot as my favorite show for the week. This whole festival showcased a number of the best Fort Collins bands in Americana, Country, Rock and Blues, so picking favorites seems almost arbitrary, actually. The whole day’s music was great. And, there was cake, and the food stand in the Swing Station sells some tasty ‘Chicago style’ hot dogs, cheap enough that I did not quite go broke keeping myself fed during the festival.
What’s next? A whole new week of music. I didn’t make it to Lucky Joe’s this Sunday, though the Tom Waits theme night did seem like an interesting idea. Next week the open mic there is back to normal, and hopefully there will be plenty more great sets from talented local musicians at this next Lucky Joe’s open mic show. Tomorrow- Avo’s Open Mic, followed perhaps by Hodi’s free show, which this week is listed as “Glimpse Duo”. My attempts at finding out more about this free show online proved futile- whoever this duo is, my internet research skills have failed to generate any band or artist info. Still, most of the Tuesday shows I have seen at Hodi’s have been by excellent bands, even if they don’t always draw huge crowds.