Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE
My passion for NOCO music — homegrown; raw and direct — didn’t begin until I started writing music articles for the Fort Collins press. Inevitably, local events included local musicians and I began writing about them just like they were the big stars.
And what I found was that NOCO musicians had a lot to say about their art. I also found that they often applied the same passion to their performances as the big bands, if not more. This commanded my respect.
I learned a lot writing about all kinds of regional bands — from heavy metal to reggae to bluegrass to folk to everything else — so I wrote a book titled “The Continuing Story: Music in Fort Collins” and it came out in 1993.
I covered what I thought were the big stories of the time, including exploring a Louisiana connection that somehow landed the subdudes, and their singer-songwriter friend Liz Barnez, in Fort Collins at a formative time in their careers.
I covered the blues scene, then marked by raucous “Blue Monday” blues jams and bands like JD and the Love Bandits, featuring trombonist JD Kelly, and Jumping Johnny Sansone’s Blues Party. Russ Hopkins was playing acoustic blues.
For reggae, and just dance music in general, there was The Island/The Atoll and The Touch Monkeys/100th Monkey bands.
NOCO had a heavy metal scene, progressive rock and funk bands like Lazy Bones, and an awesome electric rock trio, Fourth Estate, featuring the blistering guitar work of Dave Beegle.
Fort Collins was also the home of the DTS system — the Digital Tuning System developed by area engineer Neil Skinn. His company, Transperformance, made a splash at trade shows and with supplying guitarists such as Jimmy Page and Joe Perry with the ability to change the tuning of their instruments instantaneously.
Fort Collins also supported plenty of singer-songwriters such as Scott Allen, Rob Solomon, Kevin Jones, Bob Hollister, and Colleen Crosson. Top-notch jazz: Mark Sloniker; top-notch bluegrass: The Bluegrass Patriots; top-notch club act: Walt Jenkins.
Even the cover of “The Continuing Story” had to do with a band. The cover art was by an experimental music group called Fingers, who made visual art as well as sound art.
That was 28 years ago and much has happened on the local scene since then, even though many of the above musicians are still playing. Thanks to local festivals and an active music scene, I have been able to maintain touch with new NOCO music as a photographer.
Keeping up with the live music schedules at events like FoCoMX, the annual club-oriented festival put on by the Fort Collins Musicians Association, and Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest — and just about every other festival in town — yielded the richness of Colorado music in general.
I tried to sum that up in 2017 with another book, “FOCOMAX!! Colorado Music Photozine”, with photos of more than 500 Colorado bands. I added hundreds more photos to my websites since then as well.
The reason I named my 1993 book “The Continuing Story” was because I knew that as soon as I printed the thing, it would be outdated. Music is growing and changing all the time and so it goes in NOCO as well. The story continues…and continues…
In the book’s preface, I wrote: “Nobody knows it all, and this is not meant to be a definitive history of the music of Fort Collins…Add to this thin volume if you can and help celebrate the people and the sounds that make us dance, make us cry with joy or sad reflection, make us live our lives with just that much more vitality.”
Now I am wondering: who is currently continuing the continuing story?
Not Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest. That organization has announced that it has permanently called it quits on their big project after two straight years of cancellations. However, they intend to continue their summertime Thursday Night music program in 2022.
The good news is that FoCoMX is coming back — April 22-23, 2022. The festival was canceled twice during the pandemic, but the Fort Collins Musicians Association had the moxie to keep live music flowing with their Drive and Jive series at the Holiday Twin Drive-in.
If all goes well, FoCoMX will be back soon, and venues will be rocking. Artist submissions are now open and the deadline to submit material for consideration is January 11. Bands must have at least one member who currently lives in Colorado to be considered. See their site at www.focoma.org.
Let’s also mention the Music District, an organization working to provide workshops and opportunities for local musicians to share.
Our music scene, like a lot of our lives, has been severely squashed by CO-VID. But that doesn’t mean it is done — it continues. While I know this enthusiasm is somewhat misplaced in our current situation, I’ll wrap this article by quoting the preface to my “FOCOMAX!!” book:
“Fort Collins is a ravenous music city. We have a rich, vibrant culture here that demands live music with just about every occasion. So, musicians here respond by producing every kind of sound you can be looking for. A lot of them live in town — there’s practically a musician under every rock in Fort Collins. And the region is teeming with them too. Plenty of musicians from those poor urban centers to the south of us come up to Fort Collins to play because we like, and support, Colorado music of all kinds…In Fort Collins, we thrive on MAXimum music.”
Let the story continue!
Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Find a slide show version of his 1993 book, “The Continuing Story”, on his channel on YouTube at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt”.