Author: Mary Willson
The pattern of Fort Collins life is threaded with the staples of a classic Colorado experience: outdoor beauty, local beer, original bikes, and home-based bands.
With venues such as Aggie, Hodiâ€™s Half Note, Avogadroâ€™s Number, Surfside, Mishawaka, it is no
surprise that Fort Collins supports hundreds of homegrown bands. Â With the jamming beats of locality also comes the responsibility of a celebratory community; which in the 970, there is no shortage of.
April kicks off with FoCoMX, leading into a summer of Beet Street festivities, and closing out with Bohemian Nights. Being an artist or band in town looks pretty good.
Yet, one of the most supportive outlets for local bands is a non-profit, volunteer-run music support and education organization, SpokesBUZZ.
â€œSpokesBUZZ raises global awareness of Fort Collins sound and culture by bringing worldwide attention to local bands,â€ according to the official mission.
â€œIt has really two parts to it. In the big picture, itâ€™s really a promotion engine for Fort Collins. Our job is to get the word out beyond our backyard about the great music scene we have here in Fort Collins, and on the grassroots level, help educate music and bands to be better in business,â€ said organization member, Julie Sutter. Sutter deals with communication and publicity for SpokesBUZZ as well as runs her own communication company, Unconventional Ink. â€œOne of the things that we try to foster is â€˜ look how much you can do together.’â€
Only on its fourth year, the organization has fostered positivity in dozens of bands, as each goes through a program, in about two years. The current class envelopes 11 bands. As a SpokesBUZZ band, monthly seminars take place to learn the ins-and-outs of business, marketing, and other valuable skills needed to create a long lasting, successful band.
â€œYou go from being kind of a garage band, to being a band that has a platform to actually do something. To me, its kind of a ticket to somewhere,â€ said James Yearling, singer, electric guitarist, co-writer and management of the band Better Than Bacon, a current SpokesBUZZ band. â€œWe want to be advocates to SpokesBUZZ. Part of the bands’ role is honestly to be an advocate for our community and to keep the reputation high, and so outside of all the fun, there is a level of responsibility that all the bands really enjoy.â€
The music incubator is a collaborative effort that brings forward all aspects of the community, outside of just musicians. Fans feel invested to SpokesBUZZ because the shows, events, and bands represent something bigger than just the music.
Dani Grant started the organization, and she also runs the Mishawaka and Chippers Lanes. The organization is supported through volunteer driven leadership, communication, skills and forte, and funded by community initatives such as New Belgium and Crowd Funding.
â€œWhat makes Fort Collins unique is that everyone is very humble, which is really exceptional to see,â€ said Chris Anderson of Fierce Bad Rabbit, an alumni of SpokesBUZZ. â€œPeople do it because they like it. Everyone is very supportive, yet everyoneâ€™s doing their own thing.â€
As the bands headed off to South By South West (SXSW) in the middle of March, they are making their fifth journey into a mega-music sea, to promote the locality of Fort Collins. The beginnings of the organizations stem from SXSW, a mega festival, of over 128,000 attendees, according to SXSW.com.
â€œOne of the things that weâ€™ve discovered by going to Austin, it kind of feels like youâ€™re a little fish in a big pond, but weâ€™ve been able to bring so much of the community, beyond the music,â€ Sutter said. â€œWhatâ€™s different about this year, weâ€™ve actually made really great connections with the Denver community. Itâ€™s overwhelming, so you look for this connection, so the Colorado people gravitate to each other.â€
This year, over a thousand Colorado-affiliated, music-passioned people are teaming up with SpokesBUZZ to celebrate Colorado music together through an official Colorado Music Party collaboration at SXSW, showing the progression from its first year of Fort Collins jamming out in Austin.
â€œAt SXSW, it is just positive exposure for Fort Collins. I think a lot of people donâ€™t realize what an amazing music base we have here,” said Nick Duarte, vocals and guitarists for Post Paradise. â€œIt is really a team effort and everyone is working for the same goal, and they take it to Austin and say â€˜hey look world, this is us.â€™”
The year ahead is fresh with SXSW SpokesBUZZ showcase behind, and a whole new journey to learn, explore and grow on. A new season for SpokesBUZZ is ahead, as a new class of bands is soon to join the team.
SpokesBUZZ puts on collaborative concerts, as well as supports the bandâ€™s and artist’s individual performances, so when the chance arises to check out a local band involved with this organization, a Â larger picture is supported: the pattern that makes Fort Collins unique.
The threads of Fort Collins music are growing rapidly, and it is the responsibility of the community to keep this exciting pattern unfolding.
“Fort Collins does have a story to tell,” Sutter said. “When people hear ‘Colorado’, they may not think about Fort Collins, but that is changing.”
For more info on SpokesBUZZ, head over to spokesbuzz.org.