The pandemic has hit the live music industry and the non-profit sector particularly hard.
Bluebird Music Festival – an event hosted by the Future Arts Foundation, a Lafayette-based organization dedicated to providing a myriad of after-school arts programs for Colorado children – was forced into premature hibernation due to the inevitable shutdown of performances.
The two-day festival, featuring an exceptional lineup – including Greensky Bluegrass’ Phoffman, Rayland Baxter and City and Color – will return to the Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado this weekend.
âI can’t believe we’re about to host the festival after a two and a half year hiatus,â said Travis Albright, founder of the Future Arts Foundation and the Bluebird Music Festival. âThe first two years of the event were such a success and it was on such a roll, but then COVID hit. Last year, a month before the event, everything stopped and the event had to be canceled. “
Tickets were refunded when the 2020 event was canceled.
âWhile it was heartbreaking, there were more important things the world worried about than a music festival,â Albright said.
To Albright’s pleasant surprise, many ticket holders came to the aid of the foundation when they had no festival to attend.
âSo many fans have reached out to donate their ticket money or to push their tickets to this year,â Albright said.
While last year’s Bluebird Music Fest didn’t turn into a live event, it did offer a documentary that featured rare and never-before-seen footage of musicians.
Wesley Schultz (The Lumineers), Jade Bird, Langhorne Slim, Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufmann (Yonder Mountain String Band) and so many more have joined forces to contribute to “Strings & Stories: The Film” – a two hour collaboration who raised money for the foundation, âAlbright said. âAll of this has helped our small nonprofit stay afloat while we waited for this storm to dissipate. “
Previously, Bluebird brought on stage Jim James from My Morning Jacket as well as The Tallest Man on Earth, local folks Gasoline Lollipops and many other artists from different genres.
In addition to having to contend with what appear to be the ever-changing COVID security rules, Albright faced a curve when this year’s headliner stepped down at midnight.
âA month before the event, we received a call from Jeff Tweedy’s agent advising us that he was no longer able to reach us due to an ‘inevitable personal scheduling conflict,’ said Albright. âWhile it’s not the surprise we’re looking for after the past 18 months, one thing we’ve learned over this time is that you never know what can happen on a day-to-day basis. We have to learn to pivot and we have to stay positive as many others face real life issues. “
Understanding that many fans would travel with the primary purpose of seeing Jeff Tweedy – the frontman of Wilco – Albright and his team offered anyone with a Saturday ticket the option to transfer them to the 2022 Bluebird Music Festival.
âWe’ve had a few requests, but most are attending the festival because they love it and not just for an artist,â Albright said. âWe didn’t have anyone who gave us a hard time. No one, even on social media. What? When does this happen nowadays? I couldn’t be more grateful to each of these people.
Albright – a music enthusiast who has also put on intimate shows at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont and the Saint Vrain – began to think about who would complete the roster in the absence of Tweedy.
It landed on Jonathan Russell of the folk group The Head and the Heart.
âI really owe Jon (Russell) for helping us out,â said Albright. âOnce Jeff (Tweedy) had to step down, I had to scramble to find someone of his stature to fill the niche. Jon has never really played solo in the past. Everything he played was as the lead singer of The Head & The Heart. But, I saw that he had just played a solo set at the Newport Folk Festival in July. I contacted Jon that day and he graciously agreed.
The first Bluebird Music Festival in 2018 featured Josiah Johnson, former Head and the Heart member.
Albright, as well as the fans, are eager for the addition of Russell.
âIt will be so cool to see him up there solo on guitar and piano,â Albright said. âWe ended up replacing someone whose band was fronting Red Rocks with someone whose band was fronting two nights at Red Rocks. We are very lucky.
Since its inception, the Bluebird Music Festival has been known to offer a mix of artists.
This year, British singer Jade Bird, Boulder bluesman Otis Taylor and virtuoso guitarist and songwriter Molly Tuttle are on the bill. Willie Watson, Trout Steak Revival and Heavy Diamond Ring are also on the program.
More intimate âStoryteller Sessionsâ will take place with selected artists in the afternoon of Saturday and Sunday, before the evening performances. People can attend all four events or plan their own Bluebird Music Festival experience.
“I can’t wait to be on this stage again,” said Daniel Rodriguez, former Elephant Revival, who will perform on Sunday night. âThis theater is a special theater. I have been looking forward to it since the last time I played at the Bluebird Festival. I am also hungry to hear the music of my fellow craftsmen. It had been a long time since I had been exposed to the art of my peers. I’m ready to perform for people and ready to teary-eyed songs from everyone on stage.
Rodriguez will be joined by Darren Garvey on percussion and Emma Rose on bass.
âThey both have beautifully beautiful vocals and you can expect three-part harmonies and cuddly rock vibes,â Rodriguez said.
In addition to meeting Boulder County’s mask mandate for indoor spaces, participants will also be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the event.
âIt’s a strange time for a tour,â Rodriguez said. âIt’s a strange time to be alive. But I feel lucky to be alive. So finally, I’m grateful.
Earlier this month, Rodriguez performed a donation-based concert with Andy Thorn – Leftover Salmon banjoist – at Montezuma Park in Cortez in southwest Colorado.
âIn this information age comes the age of vast subjectivity and disinformation,â Rodriguez said. âMost people don’t know what to believe or who to trust and that’s pretty maddening. These are tough times because of that. The virus is real. We have established it well. If you choose not to get the vaccine or haven’t had it yet, what’s the harm of a little tickle of your nose before entering a crowded place during a pandemic? “
The main source of funding for the Future Arts Foundation does not come from alcohol sales or festival tickets, but from online charity that is now online. People can access the collection of music related loot at go.rallyup.com/6fbaaa.
It features signed memorabilia from Wilco, Phish, The Head & The Heart, Gregory Alan Isakov, Greensky Bluegrass, Jim James and many more.
Auctions end on Saturday at 8:45 p.m.
On Wednesday morning, festival tickets were still available but will likely go quickly as this is a low capacity event. The organizers are keeping at least 500 empty auditorium seats to ensure more space to spread out.
âI hope this is a time when we can all look each other in the eye and know that we’re going to go through these crazy times together,â Albright said. “It’s an incredible lineup, with artists from England to Canada all the way to Colorado.”