|By Avalon Clare|
Marc Leverette Photography
For local musicians and music lovers alike, April means one thing: the Fort Collins Music Experiment. April 22-23, FoCoMX will draw more than 200 local bands of all genres to play at 25 venues. Tickets are $35, and come in the form of a cloth wristband that allows entry to every show in the festival.
Organizers sold more than 5,000 of these tickets last year, earning FoCoMX the unofficial tagline: “the biggest little festival in America.”Without a single national headliner, FoCoMX is a true celebration of Northern Colorado’s music scene. It is almost entirely run by volunteers and directly pays the artists who participate. For the first time this year, comedy is being incorporated into the music  festival. The comedy scene in Fort Collins has been strong recently, with weekly comedy nights at several different bars in town, so it makes sense to include their talent into FoCoMX.

Local comedian Mitch Jones said, “I think it’s great to include a comedy aspect to the festival because FoCoMX is all about rewarding the creative process of these local artists.” Jones will be performing this year at High Point Bar on Saturday night.

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“Fort Collins is going through a comedy boom right now and has always had a vibrant music scene,” Jones remarked before adding, “I think giving comedy its own place at the festival could offer fest-goers even more variety than before.”

What once started as a grassroots experiment in promoting local music has grown into something Fort Collins can be proud of. Back in 2009, local musicians and music lovers gathered in a living room to plan the first FoCoMX. They ended up with 12 venues and 109 bands that first year. Those same people who first dreamed this up went on to form the Fort Collins Musicians Association. The Fort Collins Musicians Association is a non-profit that provides education, support, and networking to the Fort Collins’ music scene, and FoCoMX is their flagship event. FoCoMa’s board is made up entirely of volunteers, and Greta Cornett is their leader. Cornett is arguably the beating heart behind FoCoMX, and not just because she’s the president of FoCoMA. She described staying up all night laminating tickets for the festival during their first year after they ran out of the handmade tickets the first night. They’ve certainly come a long way since then. Part of Cornett’s passion comes from her own musicianship. She has long held respect in the Northern Colorado music community and will be performing in three different bands this year playing trumpet and singing backup vocals. During the first two years Cornett did all the booking herself, mostly on huge white boards.
After she had her daughter during the fifth year, she was forced to take FoCoMX more seriously, which meant finding a way to run it so she could teach someone else the ropes. This included redoing the festival website, which has proven to be more reliable than white boards. For example, if they accidentally double book someone who plays in two different bands, the website gives them a red flag. This, as well as the streamlined process for musicians and bands to submit to the festival gives it an air of professionalism that’s quite refreshing.
Greta Cornett
Greta Cornett
This year alone they received more than 1000 submissions. Once the submissions are in, Cornett and a team of talent buyers for local venues sift through them and eventually end up with the final two day line-up. Wondering why your band didn’t make the cut? “Part of it is room,” Cornett explained, “it’s a volunteer-run festival and we only have so many spaces.” Another reason bands might not be considered is because they didn’t submit any samples of their music in their application. Without something to listen to, it’s easier to move on to the next submission. For those who do make the grade, it’s a rockin’ good time. I absolutely love FoCoMX,” says Fort Collins based musician Shaley Scott, who is
playing it for the fourth year in a row. “I look forward to it every year. It’s beautiful chaos — where you hop from venue to venue seeing your favorite bands while discovering new ones.” She added, “It’s like a less crowded, more intimate SXSW.” According to many, the only downside to the festival is that it happens over the course of just two days. Many bands play overlapping sets at the plethora of venues across town, which forces fans and musicians to pick and choose who they are going to see. “Sometimes I miss my own favorites because I’m playing,” Scott said, adding, “but that’s the name of the game.”
With new music venues popping up all across town as well as more people moving here, the festival can only be expected to grow as time goes on. This year boasts 215 artists performing in every genre at 25 different venues. Although the venues have increased, there are actually less bands this year than the year before. Cornett described this change as part of the continual effort to achieve the right balance between venues and the amount of performers.
Fusion Nightclub, R Bar and Lounge, and Poudre Keg are just a few of the new venues participating in this year’s festival. Last year the Whiskey and Illegal Pete’s were both new, and are now in their second year. Since it’s inception, the overall mission of FoCoMX is straightforward: pay the artists. So where does the money for the tickets go? First they take all the expenses off the top, then 20% goes to FoCoMA, and then the rest is split up equally among the musicians who play the festival. This year is the first time in eight years that they’ve upped the ticket price, namely to stay true to this vision.

According to their Project Manager/Volunteer Coordinator Soraya Rozkuszka, of the over 250 volunteers who run FoCoMX, “Some are die hard local music fans, some want to find out about new music, some just want to save the $35. A few are flat-out volunteerism junkies who love helping out with any and all causes.” When asked what inspired FoCoMX, Cornett described it as a “love letter to the local music scene,” that read, “We love you and we support you.”

“As a musician I love it. I love the spirit of it.”

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