By James Garcia
With the Lollapalooza, South by Southwest and Coachella music festivals making national headlines by presenting big-name acts and attracting people from around the world, one festival stands out by rejecting that approach and striving to keep it local.
This year marks the sixth installment of the Fort Collins Music eXperiment (FoCoMX), where a plethora of local music talent will be featured in their own back yard for two days, April 25-26, as they showcase the vibrancy of the Northern Colorado music scene.
“We’re not one of those festivals that are trying to grow or bring in national bands. We’re trying to focus on local acts and keep that love alive. We’ve got a wealth of music from every possible genre,” said Soraya Rozkuszka, press and volunteer coordinator with FoCoMX.
More than 200 bands from Northern Colorado will perform over the two-day period at a variety of venues and locations throughout Fort Collins.
“We have 1,300 bands submit, just from Northern Colorado,” Rozkuszka said. “We had to narrow it down to 200, so you can imagine that those bands are pretty good.”
She said the festival provides an opportunity for music fans to connect with artists from their hometowns and to branch out and discover new genres they might not have listened to before. But it’s also a good opportunity for musicians to network and find new ways to express themselves.
“That’s what FoCoMX is about: It’s about collaborating with all these people I’ve wanted to play music with, but haven’t because we’ve been too busy or whatever else. I’m thrilled. Everywhere is going to be packed,” said Jason Downing, lead singer of Musketeer Gripweed, who will perform an acoustic set for the first time with fellow Lovelander Johnny Hickman of Cracker.
The Downing-Hickman acoustic set, which likely will pull from the musicians’ country, blues and rock styles, is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. April 26 at La Luz Mexican Grill, 200 Walnut St. in Fort Collins.
“People are going to get up and shake their butts to it,” Hickman said. “Jason is a superb harmonica player. It’s going to be a good representation of Loveland. We’re really looking forward to it.”
As is Longmont-based Mojomama, which will play at 9:15 p.m. April 26 at Tap N Handle, 307 S. College Ave.
Bassist Paul Rogalski and his wife (and the band’s vocalist) Jessica Rowland, have been playing together in Mojomama since 2002. This will be their second year performing at FoCoMX.
“We were thrilled about the music buzz around Fort Collins, especially that night,” Rogalski said. “Lots of people were out and very enthusiastic. It’s the perfect demographic, people from their 20s to 30s. We wanted to come back to make more of an impression in the music scene.”
Rogalski said Mojomama hopes to win over the crowd with its “funky, blues-rock style.
“Maybe if you put Susan Tedeschi with Steely Dan, with a bit of jam, like The Meters, you’ll get Mojomama,” he said. “Old school, yet contemporary.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who attend FoCoMX will have an opportunity to experience the “zombie pirate polka” of Boulder-based The Widow’s Bane.
“Governor” Mortimer Leech, of The Widow’s Bane, took a moment out of his busy schedule of drinking and undead debauchery to talk about the band’s third year at FoCoMX.
“Are we (playing)? Yes, I think I did hear something about that. I love FoCoMX,” Leech said. “It just gets better every time, more of a s— scene. Every other music festival in the world starts out grungy and underground, but then it gets taken over by Ticketmaster and goes completely vanilla. But FoCoMX just gets rowdier and rowdier.”
The Widow’s Bane perform their dark polka dedicatedly as zombies with a taste for chaos and an appreciation of Fort Collins’ thriving music scene. They will perform at 9 p.m. April 26 at the Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave. Leech’s advice to the living: “Die as quickly as possible. The afterlife is a ball.”
“We classify ourselves as zombie pirate polka. Mostly because we’re zombies, we used to be pirates and we play polka,” Leech said in a dark, British accent.
“As far as being easy on the eyes … It’s quite a pleasure for people to hear zombie polka, but to lay eyes upon my beauty is unworldly. It’s a good chance for the holy populous of Fort Collins to come out and see what real beauty looks like.”
FoCoMX also provides local restaurants and businesses a way to get involved. New to this year’s festival is the Museum of Discovery, which will offer more family-oriented programming.
“We give venues a chance to be a venue when they aren’t usually music venues. La Luz, the taco shop in Fort Collins, is not usually a venue. The Lyric (Cinema) is usually a cinema, but they become a venue for us,” Rozkuszka said.
Rozkuszka said one of the most endearing parts of the festival is that it’s run by a volunteer board and the nonprofit Fort Collins Musicians Association. She said it’s refreshing to be a part of an event as large as FoCoMX that isn’t solely about profits but, rather, about fostering a healthy music community.
“We try to make everyone a headliner,” Rozkuszka said. “It’s all a big deal, they’re all important. Our goal is not massive change but to continually support these bands, publicize these bands and maybe give new bands a chance to play their first paid gigs.”
If you go
What: Sixth Fort Collins Music eXperiment (FoCoMX)
When: Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26
Where: Various venues in Fort Collins
Tickets: $30 for two-day pass