Backstage at Washington’s before the Murder by Death concert Friday night, gritty Iowa singer-songwriter and opener William Elliott Whitmore praised the new Fort Collins theater that launched in February.
“It’s like whoever built this place sat down with bands and asked what they’d want in a dream venue,” Whitmore said.
The sound system is state-of-the-art, and the crew is talented. Dual green rooms evoke backstage at Red Rocks and the cozy, elegant vibe there: rock walls, luxurious leather couches, showers, flat-screen TV’s, and nary a detail missed.
“Look! They even have the wi-fi password taped to the coffee table,” Whitmore exclaimed. "They thought of everything."
A member of the fifty-person Washington’s crew pointed out that the chips and salsa they gave Whitmore came with bowls for both — a detail the singer appreciated, lamenting green-room memories of struggling to fit chips into jars of salsa.
Backing Washington's is Fort Collins billionaire Pat Stryker, the philanthropist at the helm of the Bohemian Foundation, a major force in the creation of the Fort Collins Music District and an advocate for music education through Take Note Colorado. The building and its sandstone walls date back to 1903, but most people in Fort Collins remember it chiefly for housing Washington’s Sports Bar and Grill from 1978 to 2016. It took nine months to refurbish the massive stained-glass artwork from the old Washington’s bar; mounting it in the new venue’s lobby was a classy move.
Since opening in February, the 900-capacity venue has been booking top-flight national acts from Trombone Shorty to Drive-By Truckers, but has also played host to exciting local headliners and events like FoCoMX.
Arrive early and you can sit in the first row of balcony seats on the upstairs level, which offers a fabulous view and some of the best sound in the house. The placement of the venue’s two bars, one on each level outside the performance space, creates an atmosphere during concerts that is transporting rather than chaotic, and the televisions at each bar with a live feed of the show are another nice touch.
Not everything about Washington's was perfect. The front-door security was over the top, and multiple people griped that the guards might as well have been TSA officers at DIA.
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What is traditionally the best spot in the house — standing against the stage at the band's feet — offered disorienting, muddy sound from Murder by Death frontman Adam Turla's monitor mix rather than the sound from the house speakers that the rest of the crowd enjoyed. Other similar-sized venues such as the Ogden Theatre or Boulder Theater offer much better sound that washes over the first rows. Instead, at Washington’s, the farther from the stage you get, the clearer and louder the sound is — which is remarkable for everybody but those at the very front.
Murder by Death members regularly call Colorado a home away from home, but this was the group's first-ever time headlining in Fort Collins. They were pleasantly surprised by Washington’s.
“You guys have a really nice venue here,” Turla told the jubilant crowd. “It’s a beautiful place.”
Washington's is at 132 Laporte Avenue in Fort Collins.