Music Venues on the Edge

Whippoorwill at Aggie Theatre January 30; Photo by Tim Van Schmidt

Live Music, CDs, TV


Tim Van Schmidt

There was a time when Fort Collins was just humming with live music.

That’s not just a casual statement. Every place in town that could host a musician or band was doing so — clubs, bars, coffee houses, and restaurants. Every community event featured live music. If you wanted to go out and enjoy live music, it wasn’t a question about if anything was going on, but which offering you wanted to patronize.

There was even a movement at one time to name Fort Collins the “Music City of the Rockies,” there was so much going on. Musicians were playing, and musicians were moving here because they heard it was fertile ground and supportive. Organizations such as the Fort Collins Musicians Association and the Music District served the community and fostered creativity.

Now, I’m not saying all of this is gone. But let’s just say it has stopped in its tracks because of this seemingly unending virus problem. And it’s getting worse by the day. So much so, a lot of music venues just may not survive.

But they are trying, even as restrictions change frequently.

For example, the Aggie Theatre has shifted to selling limited seating 4-person and 8-person tables. Currently, their site — and we’ll look far ahead — lists two shows by Gasoline Lollipops on December 31 and January 1. January dates at the Aggie include two performances by the Desert Dwellers on January 22 and Whippoorwill on January 30.

Washington’s is looking even further ahead with shows by Los Lobos on March 5, Yonder Mountain String Band on March 21, and They Might Be Giants on June 19. Loudon Wainwright III will be at r the Armory on March 28. Mishawaka will be presenting a special “Live on the Lanes” music series at Chippers North, including a date with Wasteland Hop on January 29 and Write Minded on March 12. Two of my favorite area venues, Avogadro’s Number and Swing Station, are not listing anything at this time, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

Wasteland Hop at Chippers North, January 29; Photo by Tim Van Schmidt

All of the dates above were as of this writing, and they may have already been changed. So my suggestion for live music fans is to just keep in touch. Watch the websites for upcoming dates and be prepared for postponements and cancellations. But do not give up!

CDs: Without a consistent local landscape to bolster live music fans — and while streaming concerts is “live,” it’s just not the same as being at a flesh and blood show — the new music products released by major artists become all the more important.

The CD I have been using for solace during these strange times is the 2020 release by Alicia Keys, simply titled “Alicia.” I’m still holding tickets for Keys’ show in Denver, originally scheduled for August 2020, now pushed forward to August 2021. The tickets included a copy of her album, originally timed to be released with her tour this year. I’m thankful that she didn’t wait to release it until next year. For me, Keys is one of the more reliably comforting voices there are out there.

It’s because Keys tries to reach out to the aching pain of 2020 with a velvet glove rather than a bullhorn. She has a great voice, but it is the positive elements to her songwriting that soothes.

The song “Authors of Forever” tells us that, despite trouble and the wild diversity of the world, “it’s alright.” “Underdog” praises the efforts of the unknowns in the world who nonetheless will “rise up.” And the final tune here, “Good Job,” goes a long way to giving recognition and support to the hard-working heroes of the world who are not celebrities, something perhaps missing in the messages of many of our political leaders.

Los Lobos at Washington’s, March 5; Photo by Tim Van Schmidt

Other great songs here include the somewhat understated but rhythmically engaging “Time Machine” and the reggae-styled “Wasted Energy.” In short, there’s plenty here to touch the soul and make the body rock, all underscored by production ear candy. Thanks, Alicia, we needed that. Next up: I’m looking forward to Bruce Springsteen’s latest record, “Letter to You,” recorded with the E Street Band, which I happen to know I’m getting for Christmas.

TV: Stop the presses. I was going to write about how actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s portrayal of Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman in the 2020 Netflix release “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is so much more effective at social comment than the crude “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” on Amazon Prime. 

I was also going to mention how “scream queen” actor Sarah Paulson keeps the adrenalin pumping on Netflix with the surreal series “Nurse Ratched” as well as in the Hulu thriller feature film “Run.”

Instead, I’d like to recommend “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix. It’s the undersea documentary about what a somewhat obsessed free diver learns off the coast of South Africa from a particular octopus he “befriends” and follows every day throughout its life span. You could perhaps question the guy himself about his personal motives, but the underwater photography is just gorgeous. It takes you to another world, for sure.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Check out his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”

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