My parents met while singing in a traveling church band in the 70s, and on many childhood nights I fell asleep listening to my dad strumming his guitar downstairs. My mom, who is an accomplished pianist, laughingly used to accuse my dad of hugging his guitar more than her.
Obviously, I was born into a musical family, and I have an honest appreciation of musicians and live music. Unfortunately, I rarely write about music festivals on HeidiTown, in part because there are so many. I could start a blog dedicated entirely to Colorado music fests and never run out of material.
Earlier this year, I was lucky to be assigned to write about Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest by an editor in my freelance life. During the assignment I had the opportunity to meet many of the people behind the event and some of the musicians who are playing this year.
I have always thought Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest was a cool event, but after getting a glimpse behind the curtain, I am convinced it’s one of the best, if not the best, music fest in the state of Colorado.
So what makes Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest so great?
There are several reasons this fest rates so high in my mind. First, there’s the location. It takes a lot of strategic planning and cooperation between many organizations and the City of Fort Collins to put on a large, free festival in the heart of downtown. Most music festivals occur in a stadium or a farmer’s field, but this event takes place in Old Town Fort Collins. The location gives it a community vibe, and Old Town provides a lovely backdrop.
Another reason this festival is special is its longevity. This is the 24th year of this event that was originally just “NewWestFest” – a celebration of Fort Collins’ birthday. This summer the city turns 139, and she’s looking pretty good for her age.
The third and final reason this is a truly outstanding festival is that it is not only one of the largest, if not largest, gatherings of Colorado bands in the state, but it’s a chance for emerging artists to connect with new fans.
The event organizers spend hundreds of hours putting together a lineup that will please the crowds at Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, but will also surprise them. They deliberately do not have music-specific stages. In other words, you will not find a “Bluegrass Stage” or “Jazz Stage.” They want to expose music-lovers to bands they might not have otherwise discovered, and to give bands a chance to strut their stuff in front on a big stage.
For years now, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest has been attracting nationally recognized headliners and this year is no exception. Michael Franti and Spearhead, Alison Krauss & Union Station with Jerry Douglas and the Gipsy Kings will play the main stage on Mountain Avenue during this three-day event.
I’m very excited to see these amazing headliners (for free), but I am also looking forward to hearing local bands like The Patti Fiasco. I interviewed the band’s front woman, Alysia Kraft, and she is a gifted singer/songwriter and performer. The Patti Fiasco plays the Library Stage on Friday, August 10 at 5 p.m.
Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest runs Friday, August 10 through Sunday, August 12. Around 100 bands are scheduled to play over the three days on six music stages. There are also two entertainment stages, lots of arts, crafts and food vendors, and of course, beer gardens.
I have a lot of readers in the Denver area, and I promise you, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest is worth the drive to Fort Collins. Yes, it will be crowded, and yes, it’s almost always hot, but if you visit with an open mind and the goal of discovering a new and exciting band, you will not be disappointed.
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While I’ve enjoyed the daytime music events, I no longer try to attend the headliners. The venue attracts way more people than can reasonably enjoy the show. With just a few hundred people between you and a low-set stage on Mountain Ave, one can neither see nor hear anything remarkable. Yes, it’s free, but if you include paid music festivals, I can’t say Bohemian Nights could rank in the category of ‘the Best’.
Thanks for stopping by! You make a really good point. Perhaps I should have categorized this as best free music festival in Colorado.
However, I’ve paid for concerts where the musicians are ants on the stage because I sat so far away. Pepsi Center is the worst!
I think what really sets Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest apart isn’t the headliners, but the sheer quantity of Colorado talent that plays this event It really is the best place to find a new band to follow.
~Heidi, the Mayor