Northern Colorado has become a hotbed of musical activity over the last decade, if not longer. Fort Collins and the surrounding areas are essentially a nurturing gestation hub for talent from across the spectrum. You name it—jam, folk, reggae, bluegrass, hip-hop, jazz, funk, indie rock, country, singer-songwriter, classical, experimental, electronic—and whatever strikes your mood on any given day, you can find it. With the inception of FoCoMX – Fort Collins Music eXperiment ten years ago, the slow build to becoming Colorado’s largest musical showcase (300+ bands, 30+ venues, 2 days) has been achieved, with new heights exceeded year after year. (Check out the full schedule of events here.)

Presented by the Fort Collins Musicians Association and Odell Brewing Co., FoCoMX is $35 for a wristband that will get you into every event over the course of the weekend, which begins on Friday, April 27th, and runs through Saturday, April 28th. Additional sponsors include The Bohemian Foundation, Colorado State University, 105.5 – The Colorado Sound, and more. The festival’s main venues include the Aggie Theatre, Hodi’s Half Note, the newly opened Washington’s, Downtown Artery, The Magic Rat, Surfside 7, and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, along with plenty of breweries and pubs on tap to grab some locally made barley-laced ales—making for one pretty epic weekend of venue hopping, having fun, and seeing live music. Get tickets here!

FoCoMX 10 Promo Video

[via FC Public Media]

A few of the artists on the laundry list of talent include Patti Fiasco, Musketeer Gripweed, Stella Luce, Skydyed, Kind Dub, Colony Funk, Strange Americans, Brent Cowles, Slow Caves, Porlolo, Michael Kirkpatrick & The Honey Rider Band, Roots Massive, and Gasoline Lollipops. The festival will also see Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedy‘s spinning vinyl at the Downtown Artery on Saturday, a laser Grateful Dead set at the Museum of Discovery, and a silent disco at Old Town Square with Beyond Existence, plus the 53:14 Music Video Experiment gives filmmakers and musicians a limited window (53 hours and 14 minutes) to conceive, shoot, edit, and deliver an original music video.

FoCoMX is a massive undertaking, and it truly takes a community to, not only lend its support but to put every piece of the puzzle into place. We caught up with FoCoMA President and Co-Founder Greta Cornett and several artists that have played multiple FoCoMX’s over the years, such as Matt Mahern (aka P-Mann), Alana Rolfe, Stu Crair, Peter Knudson, and Shane Zweygardt, to discuss the importance of the event to the local contingent as well as some fun memories from past years.

FoCoMX’s President & Co-Founder

Live For Live Music: How did the idea for FoCoMX come about?

Greta Cornett: FoCoMA, our non-profit that presents the festival, holds an Annual Peer Awards that precedes the festival by one year. It’s kind of like a local Grammys for our scene—red carpet, dress up, nominate and vote for “Best Of” categories. At our very first Peer Awards, one of the things we kept hearing was that our musicians wished they had a chance to see some of the artists perform before they had to vote on them; maybe they had never heard of the artists, maybe they hadn’t had a chance to see them live yet. So we thought to ourselves, next year we should have a showcase the weekend before so that everyone can have a chance to check some of these groups out. We thought it might be four venues, maybe sixteen bands. But year one, we had so much support from our musicians and also our community that it ended up being with 100+ bands and 12 venues. Which really seemed like a lot at the time…

L4LM: It’s been 10 years, how has the event evolved from year one?

GC: Well, this is most definitely a grassroots effort in its sincerest form. It’s a festival for musicians put on by musicians. We did the first FoCoMX out of my living room. We were a very new non-profit with no funding when we started this thing, so we did trades for printing which allowed us to handmake our tickets that first year. We used our personal money and went to Office Max, bought matching wristbands and paper (and our only choices were neon). We took those to Rock n Robins and sold them to the public. When we would sell a few and have a little more money, we would go back to Office Max to buy more paper and wristbands and start the process all over again. This went on night and day for weeks.

We thought we might sell a couple hundred if we were lucky, but we ended up selling a couple thousand. We were pumping out those homemade tickets 24/7 the week, and most definitely the weekend of the festival. We bought Office Max completely out of wristbands and ended up borrowing random ones from the Sustainable Living Fair. There are so many things that have changed since that first year, but one thing that’s stayed the same is that we want to make this about our local music scene and create a community around it.

L4LM: Where do you take things from here?

GC: Probably one of my favorite things about FoCoMX is that it really is a community event where our community takes ownership over deciding where it goes. We try really hard to let it evolve into what it needs to be, to let it help our scene shine and to offer support in whatever shape that support might look like each year. FoCoMX stands for the Fort Collins Music eXperiment. Everyone calls Fort Collins FoCo for short. We went with the “M” for Music and the “X” for eXperiment because we were not sure if it would work that first year. Some people have asked us why we still call it an eXperiment since it’s been successful, but we wanted to keep that so that we never forget to try new things each year. I’m really proud that it’s something that our community has embraced and that we’ve been able to grow it in a way that we hope will continue to be a sustainable event in Fort Collins that people really look forward to attending.

Matt Mahern & Constitution “Out On The Road”:

[via Matt Mahern]

The Artists

Live For Live Music: What band or bands do you play in?

Matt Mahern: Matt Mahern and Constitution, Ginger Whale, Lindsay O’Brien Band

Alana Rolfe: Stella Luce

Stu Crair: Musketeer Gripweed, Dead Floyd

Peter Knudson: Patti Fiasco, Lindsey O’Brien Band

Shane Zweygardt: Wire Faces, Floor Models

Musketeer Gripweed – “A-Train”

[via MsktrGripweed]

L4LM: What sets are you playing and where?

MM: Solo set – Friday – 5:30 at Equinox / Ginger Whale – Saturday – 6:00 at Hodi’s / LOB –  Saturday – 7:00 at Hodi’s / Matt Mahern and Constitution –  Saturday – 11:15 at Mainline

AR:  53:14 Music Video Festival – Friday – 6:15 at Lyric Cinema / Stella Luce – Saturday – Midnight at Hodi’s.

SC: Musketeer Gripweed – Friday – 8:30 at Washington’s

PK: Patti Fiasco – Friday – 11pm at Washington’s / Lindsey O’Brien Band – Saturday – 7:00 at Hodi’s.

SZ: Floor Models – Saturday – 9:15 at The Whiskey / Wire Faces – Saturday – 10:30 at Downtown Artery

The Patti Fiasco – “Rock n’ Roll Saved My Life”

[via Patti Fiasco]

L4LM: How many FoCoMX’s have you played in?

MM: All 10

AR: All 10

SC: All 10 baby!

PK: I’ve been a proud participant for, I think, 8 of them!

SZ: I have played in nine of them!

Stella Luce –  “Breeze”

[via Alana Rolfe]

L4LM: What is the best thing about FoCoMX?

MM: I think one of the best things about FoCoMx is the crowds. It really doesn’t matter where you play, there is a built-in crowd really eager to see live music. With that out of the way, all you need to worry about is showing up and doing what you do best.

AR: It’s local musician Christmas! People care about us more one weekend of the year, and we’re all nicer to and happier than usual.

SC: In so many music communities I have lived in, there is a lot of competition between bands of different genres. In FoCo, there is a genuine collaborative effort to keep the music scene healthy, and all seem to support that in some fashion. FoCoMX is a great celebration of the community we’ve all helped to build over the years, and I get to enjoy some of the bands I might not normally make it out to see otherwise.

PK: This festival is very important for all levels of musicians. The beginners get to cut their teeth in a go-go-go festival atmosphere—i.e. “Get your sh*! off stage very quickly!” The pros get to play to the most appreciative, enthusiastic crowds all year. The early set times give a lot of music fans a chance to check out the scene without staying up late. Win-win, baby!

SZ: The sense of camaraderie and respect for your fellow local musicians that FoCoMX cultivates.

Skydyed – “Memory Meditation”

[via Skydyed Music]

L4LM: How important has the event been to the local scene, and your own career, in particular?

MM: I would say it sets Fort Collins apart from other music towns. There are not a lot of places that do something like this, and it’s not based on commercialism. It’s like a homage to all the great musicians and music lovers in this town. It really shows the Fort Collins thinks Music is important.

AR: I think this event has been instrumental in exposing the local music in the Front Range to those who could or would otherwise ignore it. It cannot be ignored during FoCoMX!

SC: It’s a form of a homecoming and allows me to stay in touch with so many musicians I respect but don’t see often. I think it really expands this sense of community here, which is such a big part of FoCo living, and keeps those relationships active, which only helps the scene and keeps us all moving this collective idea of what Northern Colorado music is all about forward.

PK: My favorite memory is when I did seven shows: four on Friday and three on Saturday. Whew! The fans definitely kept me energized for every show. So much fun! I’m looking forward to another awesome event!

SZ: Extremely important. I would be wearing sequined-jumpsuits, waking up in a pool of my own vomit, bloated, purple, dead on a toilet if it weren’t for FoCoMX.

Brent Cowles – “Cold Times”

[via Brent Cowles]

L4LM: Tell us your favorite memory of playing the event.

MM: There are so many, but one that comes to mind is one year Ginger Whale played at Choice City. There was an elderly couple sitting right next to the stage. At first, I was concerned because Ginger Whale can be pretty raucous at times. But a couple of songs in, I looked over and this couple was loving it. Hooting and hollering right back at us. That really sums it up for me. All ages and walks of life come out that weekend and support the great music in Fort Collins.

AR: Two years ago at Surfside 7, Stella Luce killed “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. The entire place was jumping, chanting “Mama’s All Right, Daddy’s All Right!” I never thought we’d cover Cheap Trick, let alone be accepted doing so. Life is funny.

SC: In one of the earlier years of the festival, Dead Floyd performed the Dark Side of the Moon album live to the Wizard of Oz movie behind us at the Aggie Theatre. It was a massive undertaking with a big production team, multiple movie screens, extra musicians, and more. I thought we absolutely crushed it, hitting the transitions of that movie spot-on with the music. Then, rocking out a whole other set with a who’s who of special guests from the local scene. The place was packed, and it was one of the sweatiest, rowdiest, and most technically precise shows I’ve ever been a part of.

SZ: My favorite FoCoMX memory is the year we played at Hodi’s Half Note three years ago, and we brought in a guest sax player along with two of my fellow drummer friends out on stage to help add an extra percussive element to our last song.

Slow Caves – “Desert Minded”

[via Slow Caves]

FoCoMX – Fort Collins Music Experiment is set to take place this Friday and Saturday, April 27th-28th. Tickets are currently on-sale and can be purchased here. For additional information and event updates, join the Facebook Event page.