Over the next three weeks, the Flobots will visit fifteen towns across Colorado, playing everything from a fundraiser to a street party, hosting workshops at museums and having a powwow and song-sharing session with the Ute tribe.
The tour is the first run of a pilot program from state agencies Colorado Creative Industries and the Office of Economic Development. Called Detour, it’s designed to help local musicians see Colorado and play throughout the state. “Before music was a commodity, it was a form of communication,” says the Flobots’ Jonny 5 in an announcement video. “It was a way for us to connect to one another and experience community together.”
“Detour was born from input from Colorado musicians who described the challenges of the typical touring model, which results in more time spent in vans and buses than with people and communities,” explains Creative Industries director Margaret Hunt. “They described the need for a better human experience for musicians and the desire to have more meaningful engagement with people.”
The program itself is pretty simple. Artists as well as communities can submit proposals to be a part of Detour. CCI will work with both to set up a cross-state tour that is mutually rewarding for artists and the towns they’re visiting. CCI will put in some money, as will local sponsors and the communities themselves, so the band isn’t always worrying about how the next tank of gas will get paid for. Along the way, everyone involved will have a chance to connect in ways they never have before.
“There are several goals for this program,” says Hunt. “[One is] to create a touring model that brings quality music engagement to all parts of the state, as well as provide musicians with space for community engagement and their own personal creativity.”
CCI council member and musician Jesse Elliott is one of the many people working on the program. He says the idea is to change the ways bands look at touring, especially within the state. For most young bands, he points out, going on a three-week cross-country tour can “become a grind, and is not at all creatively rewarding.” In addition, quickly moving from one major market to the next is a situation that lacks “any real interaction between bands and the community they’re visiting.”
Detour hopes to change that by structuring four elements into each tour: shows themselves, song-sharing events, creative time, and field recordings with other local musicians.
“We’re sort of trying to add something to the bottom line of touring,” says Elliott. “There are all these incredible places in Colorado, and by compressing the driving time, you have tons more time with some of the real stuff of life.”
CCI hopes that starting the program with such a well-known group will get people excited about Detour. The Flobots are a good fit: The trip gives them a chance to expand on the community-engagement work they’re already doing. (The band’s members founded Youth on Record, a local nonprofit that connects music and inner-city kids.)
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“For the Flobots, it’s how songs and music tie into local issues,” Elliott notes of the specific motivations for this first tour. But each band embarking on a Detour trip will come up with its own goals.
“In the future, it can be wide open,” he says. “It can really help up-and-coming bands. It’s a program we can plug any band of any size into.”
Today's Detour events include a workshop and a fundraiser for Entusi Music Fest, an HIV awareness music project, both at the EXDO Event Center. The workshop starts at 4:30 p.m. and the fundraiser begins at 6:30.