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 night witnessed a three pack of Summer Camp Alumni on the main stage, which was a nice touch.
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.