FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Dovekins played to a capacity crowd at Hodi's Half Note. Photo by Nathan Liss

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America

The most important thing to take away from the second annual Fort Collins Music Experience is that it is wonderful: The year's best tribute to a rich northern Colorado scene. The Experience's insanely ambitious scope is only made more impressive when you consider that the thing is put together by a glorified message board of Fort Collins musicians. The final tally: Two days, 187 bands, 24 venues, 29 sponsors. That is a herculean effort from Greta Cornett and her cohorts and a Hoosiers-esque outpouring of support from the community.

Also, though: Kind of a clusterfuck. The venues were spread from Old Town to CSU's campus all the way to Laporte. Cognizant of the gaps, they set up bus routes, but they were confusing and perpetually behind schedule and generally not a good way to see live music.

There were other problems. Small capacities at many of the participating venues meant stagnant lines at almost every door in Old Town. If you showed up at a venue just as a relatively big name was getting started, you would have been lucky to catch two songs. Of course, that means attendance was good, probably even better than expected. But, between 8:00pm and 1:00am on Friday, I saw exactly one set in its entirety.

Part of that was my desire to see as many bands as possible. I immediately decided to scrap the schedule I'd made when I figured out that Paean was fucking ten miles away. But even staying in Old Town, I only saw seven bands play (plus one on Saturday afternoon before I had to head back to Denver). That works out to one band every 42 minutes, and at least half of my time was spent getting to or trying to get inside a venue.

Alright, that's enough bitching: I'd come back next year in a heartbeat, and I'd make sure I could stay both nights. The infrastructure will improve.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Dovekins. Photo by Nathan Liss

I didn't mean to stay for the entire Dovekins set. But you do not walk out on these guys. They are beautiful and unhinged and without peer in the "let's see how many different instruments we can play while yelping" subset. There is no center of attention -- each of the five members at FoCoMX fronted at least one song, each somehow meeting the impossible standard set by the last.

They might be a little cute for some people, but no one in Hodi's seemed to mind the theatricality. That's because Dovekins don't play it like an act -- the silliness of their backup vocals feels like freedom.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Victor Barnes. Photo by Nathan Liss

No shortage of rootsy stuff up north, and Victor Barnes carry the mantle well. Hillbilly campfire songs, complete with danceable aww-shucks vocals and fiddle fireworks. The long-hairs in hand-sewn vests were digging it, but so were the hipster girls, so they must be doing something right. Still, it's hard to shake the suspicion that these guys are like a pretty girl at modeling school.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
As close as we ever got to Magic Cyclops. Photo by Nathan Liss

Luscious Nectar is a decent-sized bar, capable of holding 300 according to the guy checking IDs. But fire code dictates no more than 99, so there we were, watching Magic Cyclops from the street, at least thirty people with no hope of getting inside before the set ended.

Magic Cyclops did his thing: Comedy first, rock and roll second. Most of the songs are spot on, and from what we could gather from the sidewalk, people weren't trying to take it seriously. Outside, the mood was a bit more skeptical -- three different mentions of how similar his act feels to karaoke.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Elyse Miller. Photo by Nathan Liss

In the lobby of the Lyric Cinema Cafe, Elyse Miller entertained a handful of chatty wine-sippers. No lines here. Her voice is light as a cloud, as is her touch on the guitar. The originals were pretty ho-hum, but if the songwriting ever reaches the musicianship, Miller could be serious business; her covers were spellbinding. Especially Feist's "Gatekeeper," which in fairness is a difficult song to screw up.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Spangler. Photo by Nathan Liss

Holy shit Spangler! Hard to believe anyone can make punk rock sound like a rebellion in 2010, but that is exactly what Spangler does. The band played the closing set at Surfside 7 and absolutely demolished the place. The songs were a drunken rage at first impact, but surprisingly tuneful the more you listened. So what if it's a well-trodden path -- "with passion it's true."

Sometimes, No Age said it better than I can.

FoCoMX is the biggest little festival in America
Tommy Metz. Photo by Nathan Liss

The idea behind the lineup at O'Dells on Saturday was Denver-based bands with Fort Collins ties. Fair enough, but there is something ass-backward about putting Tommy Metz in an open tasting room with families and a make-shift sound system in the middle of the day. He has this move where he bobs from the knees on every beat and rocks his torso on two and four, and it's easy to understand why this music might make him do that. His solo stuff, which you can and should download for free, is blissful pop candy. It seems to be the music he makes to relax, unburdened by his own usual high artistic standards. Here, it's all '80s synth and club banger drums and positive energy mantra lyrics. Not what you'd want forever out of a talent as great as Metz, but as diversions go, this one is hard to resist.

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