Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe & Analog Son 2.16.18

Fort Collins, CO

Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

Washington’s, Wash Bar, The Myron H. Akin Warehouse are all names that have adorned the massive stone building on Laporte Avenue in Fort Collins. For thirty-eight years Washington’s was a sports bar with more kitsch and random artifacts adorning the walls than an Applebee’s on steroids. In 2016, the bar was shuttered and bought by local philanthropy the Bohemian Foundation with plans to turn it into a new venue for the residents of Northern Colorado. The result is an absolutely staggering transformation. Gone are the old oil paintings and wood paneling, and now a shiny new room with exposed stone walls and multiple bars has taken their place. The entire renovation is top notch. The improvements show an incredible attention to detail and an utter concern for patrons.

As you approach Washington’s you notice the layout is completely new and designed for ergonomics and flow. The box office is away from the main entrance giving everyone room to get inside. With no re-entry there was also not much traffic coming and going. As you enter you are greeted by a massive bar which has done away with tabs completely. This means you’ll never have to call Washington’s to retrieve your credit card the next day. There is another bar on the second level complete with bathrooms across from the bar. Adjacent to the stairwell is the staggering stained-glass depiction of George Washington which is this establishment’s namesake and previously resided behind the old bar. There are double doors separating the foyer from the venue. A row of seating up top and plenty of room on the dance floor meant there was a place for every type of music fan.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe were the third headliner to grace the new stage at Washington’s after consecutive sellouts with Trombone Shorty and Devotchka. They invited along local funkateers Analog Son to start off the night. This being a Friday show, the start time was pushed back about a half hour so fans could make their arrival. It was an early night with doors at 6:00 PM and Analog Son taking the stage around 7:30 PM. Per usual, the core band started the night with a couple of songs before inviting the vivacious singers Devon Parker and Ashley Niven to the mic. Analog got the crowd warmed up early with “She’s Something” off their debut, self-titled album. On the third tune the trumpet player Jimmy Chisea appeared from the crowd like he just got off work, hopped on the stage and began playing like it was nothing. They wrapped up a tight one hour set with some dirty funk in the form of “Eyes For You.”

Karl Denson is a musical powerhouse who moonlights with the Rolling Stones when he’s not on the road with Greyboy Allstars or Tiny Universe. The band hit liftoff with a huge rendition of the snaptastic “Everybody Knows That.” Every song felt like an epic journey into the heart of funkdom. “The Bridge” took on monumental proportions and featured some of the deepest jams of the evening. At this point, I noticed long-time Denson collaborator and trumpet player Chris Littlefield was playing hurt. His arm was in a sling, but it did little to slow down the master and his music. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is a sight to be seen; they are a musical powerhouse capable of anything on any night. Their single set was tight, but transcendental. In their short time on the stage they filled the room with their sound and their joy. Karl closed with an ode to his daughter entitled “Ruff, Tuff & Tumble.”

The Bohemian Foundation runs a tight ship at the new Washington’s. Some of the rules like no bar tabs and a lack of reentry may catch patrons off guard, but it seems that they really did think of everything. This venue operates like a finely tuned motor, and I cannot wait to see what happens here next. Make the trip up north for a show; it’s obvious that Washington’s is poised to dominate this scene over the next few years.

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