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FoCoMX: The CSU eXperience

April 22, 2014
by Kayla Green

Local breweries, live music, countless festivals and a booming campus full of bright, young minds waiting to make their mark in world -- it's no wonder Fort Collins is a popular entertainment destination.

And with the Fort Collins Music eXperiment coming this weekend, showcasing 200 local bands in venues throughout downtown, we wanted to introduce you to a few of CSU’s own rock stars.

These bands, appearing at different times throughout the three days of FoCoMX, all have ties to CSU.

Slow Caves: The story of a studentJackson Lemperes (drums), Jake Lyon (bass), CSU student David Dugan (guitar), Oliver Mueller (guitar, synth, backing vocals), and Jakob Mueller (vocals, guitar, synth) are Slow Caves.

David Dugan, senior Journalism and Technical Communication student, first found his interest in the guitar when he was in elementary school.

“Oliver, my best friend, started playing guitar one-and-a-half to two years before me,” he said. “I watched him play at an elementary school rehearsal and wanted to learn it, too. It was that, and a lot of School of Rock that inspired us to start a band.”

It was Oliver and David, who’s been in a band since he was 12, who first started The Rewards during junior high. Several shows and nearly a decade later, David and Oliver, along with three other bandmates – Jackson, Jake, and Jakob – will be entertaining fans with their synth-punk sound at the Aggie Friday night as Slow Caves.

“FoCoMX brings together just so many local musicians. You get to experience what they’re all about and see them doing what they love,” said David.

But it isn’t all rock and roll. David’s also in tune with the Colorado Eagles and the CSU Rams, where his interest in video production allows him to shoot sports footage for the two sports teams.

Post-graduation, he plans to continue his role as the artist relations assistant for Bohemian Nights at New West Fest here in Fort Collins. “I’d like to eventually do video production in sports or the music industry – could be doing live productions or music videos,” he said, combining his two loves.

Fierce Bad Rabbit: The journey of an alumnaDayton Hicks (bass), Chris Anderson (vocals, guitar, piano), CSU alumna Alana Rolfe (viola, vocals), CSU alumnus Nathaniel Marshall (live keys), and CSU alumnus Max Barcelow (drums) are Fierce Bad Rabbit.

Alana Rolfe, one of three alumni in Fierce Bad Rabbit, is a force of nature on the viola – something she’s been working towards since she started playing the violin at five years old.

“I play the viola because it’s awesome!” she said. “But, really, it’s because it’s something that not everyone in a band plays, and it offers a way to orchestrate the music – to make it feel like a story is being told.”

Having moved to Colorado to be closer to her sister, Alana fell in love with Fort Collins – ultimately leading her to CSU.

“I wanted a flexible degree,” said the speech communication major. “Once you’ve mastered communication, you can do anything.”

But it wasn’t easy.

“During my college years, I didn’t sleep,” she jokes. “I remember working full-time, going to school full-time, practicing in a band three days a week and practicing for a play five days a week. But that’s over now – I sleep all the time!”

Fierce Bad Rabbit, a pop rock band that started in 2009, has five members including Alana.

“We like to have a lot of fun. We try to keep it light-hearted and as accessible as possible while keeping it interesting,” she said.

“My favorite thing is seeing how genuinely happy the crowds are to see you,” said Alana. “People in Fort Collins like to see live music and have a good time. If they are happy, we are happy.”

WhiteCatPink: To CSU and back againDavid Jacoby is The White Cat in WhiteCatPink.

David Jacoby, the brains behind the band WhiteCatPink, started taking piano lessons at the ripe old age of four.

“All the kids in my neighborhood were taking lessons, and my mom knew I had musical talent, because I was always banging on the Tupperware,” he said. “When all the other kids quit lessons, I wanted to quit, but my mom had the foresight to make me continue, which I’m so grateful for.”

David first came to CSU as an undergrad majoring in graphic design.

“When I graduated, I really didn’t want to go into graphic design,” he said. “Outside of school, I was always doing music things.”

A brain hemorrhage in his early twenties caused David to temporarily lose the use of one arm – and to re-evaluate his path in life.

“It really puts things in a different perspective when you can’t do the things you used to do,” he said.

He moved to Boulder, where he would eventually create WhiteCatPink. Heavily influenced by 1970s Krautrock, WhiteCatPink blends elements of the German band Kraftwerk, European electronica, CTI jazz, and a variety of other elements to create its unique sound. The band's song lyrics also are sung in English, German, and French.

“The White Cat was actually around before WhiteCatPink,” said David. “The White Cat had a lot of influencers – Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie. All three of their characters had a gender-bending aspect to them that I find interesting.

“I think the people who naturally gravitate to me do so because there’s something deeper to me than just a cat playing drums,” he said.

In addition to the piano, David also plays the bagpipes and the drums, along with numerous world instruments – a skill that helps him in his current role as a director of music in the Modern Dance Division for CSU’s University Center for the Arts.

“I’m responsible for providing music that supports the dancers’ movements – helping them to grow and learn the movements,” he said. “I am proud that I have been able to support myself here playing classical and avant-garde music for dance, as well as with my continued project with WhiteCatPink.”

The Seers: A CSU duoSean Waters and Brian Collins are The Seers.

Guitarist Sean Waters and drummer/pianist Brian Collins met for a jam session one afternoon in 2000, just before Sean’s high school senior prom.

That jam session, they’d later realize, would go down in history.

“That session was so good that we just couldn’t wait to do it again,” said Sean. “We were just all blown away at how well we communicated with each other.”

Thirteen years and a couple bands later, and two CSU alumni had created The Seers. The band’s live sets adapt to the audience size; its studio work may never make it to the stage, but allows them to explore other dimensions.

“We have our studio work and then our live stuff. We want to develop both of those identities separately as best we can,” said Brian, who has been blind since birth.

The two men – practically brothers – consider their sound to be acoustic piano rock, classic psychedelic rock, or, well, just rock. The music features abstract thought, something Sean – who holds a bachelor’s and master’s in philosophy from CSU – finds both rewarding and challenging.

“I’ll write a song and it will be completely on piano, and Sean will say, ‘Let’s do it on something else,’” said Brian. “He’s really good at having an instrumental arrangement.”

“I feel that’s where my training as a philosopher really helps,” adds Sean. “I really like to look at a song as a compilation and tweak it. It’s the intellectually really awesome part of music.”

Brian, who’s finishing his major in social work at CSU, prefers to keep his music life separate from his work life.

“I started as a music major at University of Northern Colorado, but I didn’t want it to be my day job and my entertainment,” he said.

The two Fort Collins locals typically play multiple shows each weekend, and are especially looking forward to FoCoMX.

“We love to do it just because it gives us a chance to play and see so many cool bands,” said Sean.

 “We have a music-loving community around us,” adds Brian.

FoCoMX

The Fort Collins Music eXperiment, or FoCoMX, is presented by the Fort Collins Music Association. In its sixth year, the event showcases more than 200 bands, solo performers, DJs, and other artists from Northern Colorado. Wristbands are $30 and can be purchased online or in person at Rock ‘N’ Robin’s, 804 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins. Free wristbands can be obtained by volunteering for the festival.

So, check it out. Take it in. And eXperience Northern Colorado’s two-day festival.