Bohemian Nights Combines New Talent and Old Friends for 9th Annual Festival

A retrospect look at 15 years of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest through the eyes of Scene.

2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest. Photo courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.
2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest. Photo courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.

2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest

By Mary Willson 

The long-awaited Bohemian Nights Music Festival and NewWestFest street fair rolls around again from August 16-18, bringing new sounds, old friends and a lot of Northern Colorado culture.

“Bohemian Nights has always been about sharing the gift of music, revealing Fort Collins as a city recognized for its live music scene and showcasing new, emerging and established Colorado bands,” Liz Barnez, artist relations manager of Bohemian Nights, said. Bohemian Nights are entering its 9th year as a cornerstone of the Northern Colorado music scene. “That’s the vision the festival has been built around from the beginning.”

“This year, Bohemian Nights is proud to feature more than 70 of Colorado’s best bands and artists performing across six music stages for three days in Downtown Fort Collins,” said Merry Hummel, Director of Music Events, Bohemian Nights. “It’s a unique urban setting, outdoor festival experience with great live music.”

The headliners naturally change each year, bringing different sounds, styles and crowds to the Mountain Stage, the largest stage at Bohemian Nights. Headliners in the past have included Michael Franti and Spearhead, which brought a reggae sounds; Earth, Wind, and Fire, which brought the audience back to classic rock roots; G. Love and Special Sauce have also taken the Mountain Stage with an alternative hip hop set. This year, the headliners bring Fort Collins fans back in time with three bands that have contributed to the Colorado music scene from the ’60s-’90s.

The headlining bands and artists are the Samples on Friday, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite on Saturday and Leon Russell on Sunday.

“[The Samples] were an integral part of creating the Colorado music scene in the ’80s and ’90s, and after a short hiatus are back to creating great music,” said Barnez. “Leon [Russell] has been a major influence on the international music scene since the late 60’s. It is certainly a privilege to have him on our Mountain Avenue Stage in 2013. There is no real science to choosing the headliners; we look at the musical climate, touring schedules, availability and go from there. We pay attention to how we can expose the Colorado bands to the crowds the headliners will draw. It’s also fun to make some Colorado connections. For example, both Charlie Musselwhite and Leon Russell played Fort Collins’ legendary music club “Linden’s” back in the day.”

While the headlining bands are a massive draw for the community, bringing hundreds down to historic Old Town for a free, national touring show, the headlining shows play an equally important role in creating a market for local bands to be discovered, playing on one of the five other stages downtown.

“Bohemian Nights is a sampling of the diversity of talent represented in our state. It is a great time to come out and enjoy your favorite artists, but also to discover something new,” Barnez said. “There is nothing better than finding a new sound that truly moves and inspires you.”

The selection process for choosing local bands to represent Northern Colorado at Bohemian Nights is just as challenging as putting on the festival at large. First, a committee is formed called “The Talent Advisory Committee,” which is comprised of seven people who are active in the local music scene in a variety of ways, all representing different personalities and aspects of the music community.

“Each committee member brings a unique perspective and music expertise to the committee,” Barnez explains. “New, emerging and established bands and artists are all considered. This year we narrowed the limitless spectrum of music to nine genre types to use as guidelines in the selection process and to support audience recognition of the types of genres and music they might like, even if they aren’t familiar with a band. The committee then have extensive and often passionate discussions about the bands over the course of several meetings and many months.”

Finally, the selections are made based on committee recommendations.

Some local highlights over the weekend include The Epilogues (alternative rock), Post Paradise (rock), Juno What?! (electronic), SHEL (alternative folk), The Yawpers (rock), Grant Farms (bluegrass), Wendy Woo (singer-songwriter) and Head For The Hills (bluegrass). This is only a handful of the diverse talent that is represented.

NewWestFest celebrated a silver anniversary last August, marking 25 years of Northern Colorado success. Bohemian Nights was added long after NewWestFest became a cornerstone in Fort Collins, yet now the duo’s partnership combines local business, education, and music for a complete cultural and enjoyable experience for all.

“Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest includes 250 specialty, business, and art booths and eight stages of free, continuous entertainment: six music stages, a Kids’ World stage with community-and-children-related performances, and the Dance Showcase Stage,” said Peggy Lyle, Downtown Fort Collins Business Association Event & Entertainment director. “The festival also hosts two food rows with dozens of delicious restaurants and booths, Colorado craft beers, the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant patio, Colorado State University showcase booths, a classic carnival and City of Fort Collins water tables offering free water for everyone!”

Festival hours are 5:00-10:00 on Friday, from 10:00 am- 10:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am-7:00 pm on Sunday. The Samples play at 8:30 on Friday, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite play at 8:30 on Saturday and Leon Russell plays at 5:30 on Sunday, all at the Mountain Stage. All shows and entrance to the festival are free. More information and a complete music lineup is available at www.bohemiannights.org or on the mobile app, which can be downloaded through the website.

2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest poster. Courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.
2013 Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest poster. Courtesy of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.

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