After the death of Ron Miles in 2022, Colorado has little to offer. Local networks are deficient, show spaces generally relegated to Denver, with the state as a whole treated as an after-thought on bloated touring schedules needing to check-off the western market.
Trying to get to the heart of any local scene since I first arrived in Colorado has been fruitless. My long time go-to’s for finding local acts is through mom’n’pop record stores. Whether I’m on tour or visiting family, if you’re looking for ‘the good stuff’ in a local music scene there is no better place to turn than the town’s record shops. Yet, here ‘local’ sections in record stores are usually limited to 5 lackluster CD-rs and/or include bands from a fair share of any non-coastal, non-southern states (Illinois in one instance).
There is nearly no-point in talking about music outside the sprawl that is Denver because the state itself seemingly refuses to acknowledge it- exceptions for legacy acts playing at Red Rocks and the occasional rumblings of a house-show once had in Fort Collins, of course.
Talk is guarded in Boulder county, fair. The Boulder PD have raided shows before. Yet there is a heightened culture of individualism which is conducive to scene-killing. Is it pretension? Is it cool detachment?
Atop this is the transient nature of Colorado residency (eg. college students, tech industry diaspora). A vicious cycle to cultural growth efforts, few people ever seem to live in the state longer than 5 years. How can local scenes and sounds grow organically in such a high turnaround environment?
Detached from significant touring networks, Colorado isn’t a feasible touring option for smaller acts from outside the immediate region. Those who can make it are more significantly backed, big enough to draw festival spots and bigger guarantees.
So it’s been everywhere in all facets of music that instagramable moment-making approaches to showmanship triumphs over solid musical performances or artistic ingenuity. Cost of living in Colorado has been and continues to be incredibly high, making the travel to shows even more costly. All of this discourages new and old residents alike from going to smaller shows in neighboring towns with bands they haven’t heard of before.
Given Colorado’s general inaccessibility and the internet age’s low bar for content, jam music- whose devotees are seemingly always willing to have an excuse to drop out for a few hours- and legacy acts have conquered the public sphere of music in Colorado. This proliferation of established acts only contributes to the nagging feeling that Colorado is culturally 10 years behind the rest of the country in many, many ways.
Colorado is a destination for musicians no more. The 1970s are over, yet it still clings to the past. Unless the guards of local scenes adopt a militant ‘high tide raises all ships’ approach to growing Colorado’s internal and regional music networks, The Centennial State’s music scenes will remain under a doomspell.
The Centennial State is a hole.