The Bohemian Process & Their Mentality Behind Their Selections

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By Hap Fry

Locals on one side. Headliners on the other.
That’s essentially the foundation for which the Bohemian Nights Foundation proceeds to select the lineup for its annual NewWestFest.
Colorado acts will be announced May 30, while the festival’s three headliners will be unveiled June 6 in Old Town Square for this year’s Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest slated for Aug. 16-18.
“It’s always a fine-balancing act,” said Merry Hummell, Director of Music Events for Bohemian Nights. “The balancing act with the headliners is what we’re really all about for Colorado music. We use the headliners, and I mean that term lightly–we use them to anchor the days’ shows because we want people to come out and hear these Colorado bands. That’s the methodology that’s employed.”
Bohemian Nights’ selection process is two-fold. The foundation employs a seven-person Talent Advisory Committee made up of press, musicians and other people active in the Colorado music scene to select which Colorado bands will perform.
That selection process is not as easy as it seems. Approximately 250 Colorado acts applied to perform at this year’s festival. Approximately 70 will perform this year–down from over 90 that performed at last year’s festival.
Hummell cited longer set times for the performers and increased set break times in between acts, leading to better production quality and more efficient line traffic as the reason for the reduction.
“We all see the bands that apply, and in a lot of cases we haven’t heard of them,” said Eryc Eyl, one of the Talent Advisory Committee members. “But what really impresses me is that people really do their homework. We don’t just come in with the bands we know. I have been exposed to so much music that I didn’t know existed.”
“Whether it’s a band that applied or me bringing up a band that no one’s ever heard of and didn’t apply, the rest of the committee members go and check them out. It’s pretty amazing how committed these people are to the process – just to make sure we’re not just going with the bands that we’ve heard of.”
While the Talent Advisory Committee plays the largest role in selecting the bulk of the festival, they play no role in selecting the headliners that ultimately drive much of the foot traffic that Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest enjoys.
“That’s an internal process that frankly I don’t think we’re prepared to go public with because we we are mostly concerned with spending our time on booking Colorado bands,” Hummell said. “The headliners – they’re a part of it, and they clearly drive how we are building the lineup for the full days’ worth of programming. So we’re looking for diversity, but other than that – that’s really what happens with it because we focus our energies first on the Colorado bands.”
Eyl did say the Talent Advisory Committee is told about the headliners late in the process just to help ensure that they put formidable act directly in front of each headliner.
“Part of that’s just practicality,” Eyl said. “I mean, you look at the size of that (main) stage–you’ve got to be able to bring it to that stage. We’re thinking about not only the artist’s experience but also the audience’s experience.”
Eyl also did go on to add that he expects people will be more than impressed with this year’s group of headliners, saying they compare more than favorably to previous acts like Michael Franti, Bruce Hornsby, and The Tedeschi Trucks Band.
“I think people are just going to be really excited, and not just because it’s phenomenal talent,” Eyl said. “Each of the headliners is just so right for this year’s festival. When I found out, I sort of dropped back into my chair and just went: ‘wow,’ and I’m not easily impressed. I can tell you, it’s not Bon Jovi.”

2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest poster. Courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.
2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest poster. Courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.