Feb 062008
Authors: Chris Galis

A few years ago the Fort Collins music community experienced a lull. With the closing of the Starlight (now Hodi’s Half Note), the Mishawaka Amphitheater, and Connor O’Neils, local bands were left with idle hands.

But things are starting to turn around.

It is no mishap that the conception of the Fort Collins Musicians Association (FCMA) and the anniversary of Hodi’s Half Note have coincided with a communal sign of relief from local musicians.

Their lives are getting better.

On Jan. 27, the FCMA held its first meeting of 2008 at Hodi’s. The panel of three, well-established, local musicians were there to discuss tour scheduling and promotions. Questions were posed and answered in earnest. However, in the midst of a tangential discussion on the best place to play and get free drinks, one panelist mentioned the recession the Fort Collins music scene experienced not too long ago.

“But,” the panelist said, “now it’s starting to feel like the old days.”

The reason for this sudden shift in progress may be the result of a natural social ebb and flow, to and from the musical arts — or it could have something to do with Hodi’s Half Note.

It has been a year in Fort Collins since Hodi’s opened its door to the listening public and Greta Cornett, booking and promotions agent for Hodi’s, as well as co-founder of the Fort Collins Musicians Association, feels good about it.

“I feel like we’ve brought in a lot of good music to Fort Collins,” she said.

It’s no accident that she feels this way.

“One thing that we’re really proud of is that we really try to mix it up. We don’t just look for jam bands or rock bands, we look to spread different types of quality acts out throughout the week,” she said with a modest smile.

Diverse lineups aside, Hodi’s and Cornett are doing far more than bringing great music to Fort Collins — they are creating it. The FCMA began back in October as the brainchild of both Cornett and Michael Mockler, editor-in-chief of Scene Magazine. Their goal as an organization is to make the life of the musician as easy as possible.

Much of the FCMA and Cornett’s time is geared toward new bands without much experience.

“We have a lot of young bands that start in high school that just don’t know how to get gigs or how to book tours,” she said. “We really want to try to help them out.”

A Web site launch is planned late for February, which will offer new bands gig contracts and a way to get acquainted with the process of starting out here.

“We have so many awesome bands — I can’t even tell you how many good bands come out of Fort Collins. We want to keep people here in town. Tickle Me Pink started out here — they just signed and they’re still playing,” Cornett said.

The resources are not just for the fledgling band, either. Many of the workshops are geared toward veterans of the music scene. They held a touring workshop in January and plan for a February workshop on band promotions. It also offers a chance for players and listeners to socialize over a few drinks after the event.

“We try to have music at every workshop so that people will stick around and get to know each other, as well as get exposure to a band that hasn’t really had the chance — get them playing in front of musicians.”

The FCMA has big plans that stretch beyond the limits of our community — they want to bring the three music bodies in the state (Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins) into one.

“Fort Collins always feels like its own little place,” Cornett said. “There’s always this huge gap between us, Boulder and Denver. And one thing that we’re trying to do is bridge that gap. It doesn’t make sense that such awesome bands from Denver and Boulder never make it out here to play, and it’s the same for Fort Collins bands getting exposure in those places. So it’s good to open that door.”

As for Hodi’s Half Note, success has been a long time coming. The building has built a reputation over the years as having a curse on it. Originally called the Mountain Tap, the venue changed hands quite often between owners from here and from Boulder. Then it became the Starlight where it did very well for a while until bands, for ethical reasons, were banned from playing there. It was then shut down for a while. The property went disturbingly quiet. It seemed the curse had got the best of the place until Hodi’s opened up, bringing just the right amount of voodoo.

“I don’t think there is a curse,” Cornett said. “Like any new business we’ve had our touchy spots, but I think we’re getting up there.”

And Cornett isn’t letting a little curse get in her way.

So it seems that the “lull” has been replaced with what can only be described as functioning optimism. Though ups and downs are a natural part of any progression, the FCMA is trying to make the downs less drastic and the ups more elevating.

“We’re trying to build a community and start it from the ground up — have all the bands know each other and the people in the industry,” Cornett said. “That way we’ll have a really solid foundation to build on, instead of seeing that up and down.”

For Cornett, it’s not just about the quality of music, but the quality of life. The FCMA wants to improve it for the musicians here in town.

The end to this story lies somewhere between the year-old walls of Hodi’s Half Note and those individuals responsible for the FCMA. Due to their labor of love, musicians in this town now have a positive and stimulating environment in which to play.

Staff writer Chris Galis can be reached at verve@collegian.

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