NewWestFest shines spotlight on Colorado musicians

Music fans fill Library Park in Fort Collins during Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest in 2014. (Courtesy photo)
Music fans fill Library Park in Fort Collins during Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest in 2014. (Courtesy photo)

By Jessica Benes

That electric anticipation runs through the crowd as everyone waits.

Many members of the audience have been listening to and watching Colorado musicians all day.

Finally, the headliner steps onto the stage to close out the night.

“It’s what music lovers live for!” said Greta Cornett, local musician and Bohemian Nights music blogger.

The Old Town Square renovation hasn’t stopped a Northern Colorado staple from returning to downtown Fort Collins this August.

The annual three-day music festival, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, returns Aug. 14-16 with a slew of Colorado favorites and three renowned national headlining acts.

Though some work is being completed in Old Town, the square will be accessible to pedestrians.

“This year, we’ve programmed five music stages. Next year, we will return to six stages,” said Kristen Karabensh, Bohemian Foundation music programs director.

The free music festival will include a nationally known headliner on each of the three nights of the event; Denver’s Flobots on Friday, the Steve Miller Band on Saturday and Rodrigo y Gabriela on Sunday.

Other bands on the lineup range from award-winning Trout Steak Revival, which is opening for Rodrigo y Gabriela; to Elise Wunder, who is among the acts coming to NewWestFest for the first time, and New West veterans such as Musketeer Gripweed.

“I saw Trout Steak Revival win the 41st Telluride Bluegrass Colorado band competition (in 2014). We’re proud to have this quick-picking Denver quintet open for Rodrigo y Gabriela at our main stage Sunday night,” said Brett Rindt, Bohemian Foundation music events manager.

Trout Steak Revival, which plays NewWestFest on Aug. 16, is, from left: Steve Foltz (mandolin and guitar), Travis McNamara (banjo), Bevin Foley (fiddle), Will Koster (dobro and guitar) and Casey Houlihan (standup bass). (Courtesy photo)
Trout Steak Revival, which plays NewWestFest on Aug. 16, is, from left: Steve Foltz (mandolin and guitar), Travis McNamara (banjo), Bevin Foley (fiddle), Will Koster (dobro and guitar) and Casey Houlihan (standup bass). (Courtesy photo)
Travis McNamara, banjo player and singer for Trout Steak Revival, said the band is excited to perform in Northern Colorado. The Denver-based quintet has had a busy summer playing the Telluride, Pagosa and Palisade bluegrass festivals but haven’t previously made it to the Bohemian Nights festival.

“We’re really excited to get up there. We have heard some good things from some of our friends,” McNamara said. “It’s great getting out on the road, but, man, it feels good to be home.”

Trout Steak released the album Brighter Every Day in April. In addition to their Sunday performance at Bohemian Nights, the band will headline the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Sept. 12.

Karabensh said NewWestFest organizers seek to support and showcase local artists, whether it’s through the festival, the Thursday Night Live concert series or Concerts at the Armory.

“With the exception of the three national headliners, all the bands that play the festival have a significant tie to Colorado, and almost all of them call the state home, she said. “We pick a variety of acts, hoping to appeal to all ages and all musical tastes. Our goal for the festival is that everyone in the local community feels invited to come out and enjoy the show.”

Among the bands representing Boulder County is the Gasoline Lollipops, a high-energy alt-country act that is scheduled to perform Saturday at NewWestFest.

Guitarist and Boulder resident Donny Ambory said the Lollipops try to get to Fort Collins whenever they can.

“We probably should do it more,” he said.

The organizers of NewWestFest and the annual FoCoMX music festival, as well as other drivers of the Fort Collins music scene, are doing something right, Ambory said. If it weren’t for family circumstances, he would consider moving there.

“I am very pro-Fort Collins,” Ambory said. “Fort Collins has a great music scene.”

Elise Wunder, a Fort Collins solo artist, is that singer in the cool hat and pants, or so she has heard people say.

Elise Wunder, the "girl in the cool hat," will make her debut at NewWestFest on Aug. 15. (Courtesy photo)
Elise Wunder, the “girl in the cool hat,” will make her debut at NewWestFest on Aug. 15. (Courtesy photo)
Wunder has been performing in bands for about five years and went solo more than a year ago with her guitar and foot tambourine.

“It’s fun; it has been a good process for me,” she said. “It was a cool experience winning the Fresh Talent Showcase at the Aggie in November.” She won time in a recording studio and an article in Scene Magazine.

Wunder put out her first album, In The Darkness of My Light, in May.

“I’m meeting the right people, establishing my name in Fort Collins,” she said. “My next focus is spreading my name throughout Colorado and, you know, the rest of the world.”

As a newbie at NewWestFest, she likes that the festival brings local music to the forefront, along with big names such as Rodrigo y Gabriela, whom she is excited to see.

“It’s a cool combination of everything. An opportunity to reach new audiences, new ears,” she said.

This is Musketeer Gripweed’s 10th year as a band and its fourth time, give or take, at NewWestFest.

“(Music) is just one of those things that the Fort Collins community does well,” said Jason Downing, a multi-instrumentalist and frontman for the band.

Downing, a Loveland resident, said Musketeer Gripweed tries to stay relevant and not overplay any one venue. And it’s important to have a message.

Theirs is to take care of each other and write about kindness, compassion and mindfulness. He also believes it’s possible to make the world a better place — for free.

“I say this at every show and people are still blown away,” he said. . “Music without a message is kind of boring to me. If you’re not getting up there on stage and saying something, what are you writing about?”

Jessica Benes: 970-669-5050 (ext. 530),,

Quentin Young contributed to this report.

If you go

What: Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest

When: Aug. 14-16. Times: 5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Headliners are Flobots, who perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday; Steve Miller Band, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and Rodrigo y Gabriela, 5:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Old Town Fort Collins

Tickets: Admission is free. There is a cost for food, drink and specialty booths.


Festival logistics

Festival Bucks: They are required for food, drinks and carnival purchases and will be available at nine locations throughout the festival. Music and entertainment performances are free. ATMs will be available, and some will offer cell phone charging stations.

Transportation by vehicle: The Old Town Parking Structure, on the corner of Remington Street and Mountain Avenue, and the Civic Center Parking Structure, on the corner of Mason Street and Laporte Avenue, are open for event parking all day Saturday for $5 and Sunday for free. Organizers encourage people to carpool, bike or use public transportation.

Transportation by bike: Temporary bike parking will be located throughout the festival grounds. A map is available at

Public Transportation: The Downtown Transit Center is located two blocks from the festival. MAX will cost $1.25 per person per ride.

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