Bohemian Nights at New West Fest August 9th -12th, 2012
Fort Collins, CO
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock
Bohemian Nights is the cornerstone of the summer in Fort Collins. It is a celebration of music and highlights some of the incredible homegrown acts in Colorado. The musical performers are a literal smorgasbord of everything this great state has to offer. The nice thing for any music fan is that you can pick and choose your experience to suit your tastes. Being a fan of bluegrass and jam it was easy to cull through the offerings and check out what was appealing to my preferences. In addition to the great local acts performing across six stages, New West Fest brought in several headliners that are some of the most sought after live acts touring today. With over ninety concerts over three days there was a lot to take in for everyone in attendance.
-Friday August 10th, 2012-
On Friday I made the choice to stay at the main stage for Dubskin, Euforquestra, and the headliner Michael Franti with Spearhead. Dubskin began the night with their brand of fiery American Reggae. Jamal Skinner has an amazing authenticity that permeates everything he does on stage. With the power duo of Ryan Jalbert and Mike Tallman on guitar this band exudes raw talent. Their approach to the reggae genre leaves nothing to be desired. This 7-piece lineup has everything going for them right now with shows at Summer Camp, Red Rocks, and Wakarusa under their belt the future is looking bright. Their show at New West Fest was simply a blast. They brought a powerful energy and really invigorated the crowd for a night of music.
Next up was Fort Collins transplants Euforquestra. It’s no secret that I love these guys. They bring the heat every time they play. With the recent departure of bassist Ben Soltou the band has shaken up things a bit. Adam Grosso went back into the bass slot while newcomer Craig Babineau has taken his spot behind the kit. Grosso has a more “driving the bus” style as opposed to Soltou’s funky roots, which makes for a distinct change in the band’s sound. That being said, this was the first time I had the chance to see the reformatted lineup and I was definitely impressed. Awesome versions of “Soup” and “Road Funk” really hit the mark in a big way. The crowd definitely began to fill in; in anticipation of Franti. Euforquestra did a great job opening for the headliner. Their version of Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” was a high water mark of the show.
Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage around 8:30 PM to a capacity crowd on Mountain Avenue. This guy is a bucket of liveliness and his show in Fort Collins was no exception. Within the first couple songs he was off the stage and in the crowd. A common occurrence at Spearhead shows to be sure, but it’s always a thrill for those in attendance. Versions of “Everyone Deserves Music” and “Hey Hey Hey” were highlights of the hour and half set. Franti bounced around the stage while Carl Young on bass and Manas Itiene on drums held the rhythm down tightly. While Franti may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say his positivity is simply infectious. It was an excellent end to the first night of New West Fest.
The Bohemian Foundation in association with the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association went above and beyond in the creation of this one of a kind event. They worked tirelessly for months to make it all happen and it is one of the best-run festivals in Colorado. In their eight year the organizers continue to raise the bar every summer. With countless volunteers and some incredible staff they give local musicians an astonishing opportunity to perform in front of massive crowds.
-Saturday August 11th, 2012-
Day two began for me with The Holler! at the Old Town Stage in the heart of Fort Collins’ pedestrian mall. The Holler! is an Americana, Bluegrass experience that has become a local favorite over the past few years. Led by Michael Kirkpatrick these guys put songwriting above the jam in a way that makes for some interesting performances. Their show at New West Fest definitely drew a crowd, making it hard for fans to maneuver. They were a great start to my second day at the fest.
Fort Collins favorites Good Gravy! hit the Library stage next. Emerging as a Northern Colorado jam powerhouse since their beginning in 2007. They have invigorated audiences up and down the Front Range and they definitely deserved their spot at Bohemian Nights. They played well, and were a nice segue into Grateful Dead cover band Shakedown Street on the same stage. Playing Johnny Cash’s “Big River” their selection of songs ran the gambit of the Dead archive. They are excellent musicians and Colorado’s premier Dead cover band.
I headed back over to the Old Town Square stage for Trichome. Their brand of funk-infused roots rock is enough to get anyone moving. They too hail from Fort Collins and continue to make strides with fans and festivals across the country. Their show at New West Fest was an excellent demonstration of what supporters have come to expect from Trichome. I left impressed, before heading back to the Green Room to relax before Allison Krauss & Union Station took the Mountain Avenue stage.
Headlining the entire festival Allison Krauss is colossal name in the world of bluegrass. With Grammy winning Jerry Douglas by her side on the dobro the show stuck to both of their roots. Never straying too far from the bluegrass or Americana genre, the band played to an audience that literally stretched form blocks. In fact they ended up setting up gates, as there were simply too many people on the street. Krauss shied away from the press opting only to let photographers in the pit for her second song and even then hiding behind her microphone stand. The music didn’t suffer and her sweet voice reverberated off of the buildings in downtown Fort Collins. She certainly deserves her place at the top of the bluegrass world.
-Sunday August 12th, 2012-
I headed down to Bohemian Nights on Sunday around 3 PM for Widow’s Bane. For those that don’t know this self-proclaimed “Zombie-Death-Polka” band performs adorned in face paint and blood. Led by Mortimer Leech who was poisoned by his wife a few hundred years ago, The Widow’s Bane does not shy away form playing to the crowd. They invited a friend to serve cotton candy to the mass as they performed. They were the surprise of the festival, playing up their characters and making for an intriguing blend of rock, folk, and cowpunk.
I took my time heading back over to the Old Town Square Stage for Leftover Salmon side project Great American Taxi. It had been two years since GAT had played at Bohemian Nights and they definitely drew in the people. The highlight of their set was a beautiful rendition of “Silver Fiddle.” With Vince Herman at the reigns this band never disappoints.
I went to see a bit of Sunday headliners Gipsy Kings before ending the weekend at Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Kyle of The String Cheese Incident has assembled an all star side project including Garrett Sayers on bass and Dave Watts on kit. They played everything you would want to her from them including an epic set closing “Rosie.” I left the event happy to have covered it, and elated with how well it came off. It’s impossible to live in Fort Collins and not make it down for at least a day or two of Bohemian Nights. Even if you don’t like many of the bands there is always plenty to see and do. I took the opportunity this year to pick my very own 10-show weekend, which is easy to do given the fact that so many bands played the event. It was well run and a great time, now let’s see moe. headline a night next year. Thanks to the Bohemian Foundation and the Downtown Association for all the hard work.
Nicholas' Friday Photo Gallery
Nicholas' Saturday Photo Gallery
Nicholas' Sunday Photo Gallery