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Our Music City

Growing Music Culture

The air in Fort Collins vibrates with the sounds of live music. Everywhere you turn, the rich history and legacy of musical endeavors surrounds you like a warm, melodic blanket. In the past few decades, Fort Collins musicians have been working hard to put our town on the map. 

With a plethora of music venues, multiple festivals throughout the year, and thousands of talented local musicians, it would be quite possible to see a different band every night of the year. The places, the people, and culture of Fort Collins have fostered a stellar musical environment for over 50 years. 

It is hard to say when the first musician rolled into town. The soldiers and settlers who founded Fort Collins in the mid-1800s undoubtedly would have brought musical instruments with them or sang to pass the time. As the town grew, the residents held community dances and played music in whatever spaces they could. The earliest surviving example, the Mishawaka Dance Hall, was built right on the Poudre River in 1916 by Walter S. Thompson. To this day “The Mish” continues to attract talent from around the globe. 

Fort Collins began attracting the big names in music starting in the 1960s and 70s. Hughes Stadium, home to the CSU Rams for many decades, also rivaled Red Rocks at the time as a major concert venue. The Rolling Stones (with surprise guest Elton John), The Beach Boys, Chicago, and Bob Dylan all played Hughes Stadium in the 1970s. Just imagine Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan strolling down College Avenue to grab a bite to eat! In the last five decades, Fort Collins’ influence on the national music scene has only grown stronger.

Today you can catch a live show at dozens of places around Fort Collins. The quality concert venues, enthusiastic residents, and supportive musical community in Fort Collins attracts artists from around the globe and provides a rich density of talent found few other places. Fort Collins is truly special, and the spaces created for live music is one of the things that makes that so. 

While we no longer fill Hughes Stadiums for shows (the city banned the excessive noise in the 1980s and the stadium was demolished in 2018), larger venues like The Aggie and Hodi’s Half Note have been around for a couple of decades and regularly attract nationally-touring bands. There are several more thriving intimate venues  where local music can be enjoyed daily. 

The popularity of live music in Fort Collins continues to grow. The demand for live music is so high in Fort Collins that in the past few years, several new venues have opened to provide more spaces for musical expression.  These new spaces range from large venues like Washington’s, to comfortable lounges like the Magic Rat, to unorthodox venues like Blast N’ Scrap, a DIY venue located inside Who Gives a SCRAP Creative Reuse Center. 

The music industry is not only a part of Fort Collins’ vibrant culture, but also its thriving economy. Local bands order merchandise from local print shops, record their albums at the world renowned Blasting Rooms Recording Studio which opened in 1994 by members of Descendents and Black Flag, and places like Higher Ground Rehearsal Studios, which opened in 2014 to provide private, high quality back-lined rehearsal to the musicians in our community. Local musicians partner with breweries to create special blends, restaurants like Music City Hot Chicken offer up their incredible grub and their parking lot for concerts throughout the year. It's no wonder the music scene is growing- with the support of small businesses, the creative culture thrives. 

The range of creative musical spaces creates a unique atmosphere in Fort Collins where anyone can find something they love. Summer is festival season in Fort Collins, and there is no shortage of amazing live music performances for music lovers of every taste. From FoCoMX to Taste Of Fort Collins, our festivals attract talented local and world-renown musicians that have helped give our town the reputation of being a musical mecca. Even our food festivals feature Grammy-award winning artists (anyone else remember the Smash Mouth debacle of 2015?)! 

If crowds aren’t your thing, you won’t need a festival to find outdoor tunes in Fort Collins. During the warmer months of the year, several public spaces like Old Town Square, Oak Square, and the CSU Lagoon are transformed into music venues. You are likely to bump into a performance by a talented artist everywhere you turn.

The music scene and reputation of Fort Collins is growing quickly, and it could be said that the density of talent and thriving live scene puts Fort Collins on the musical map right alongside the likes of Nashville and New Orleans. Here, artists are creating, experimenting, recording, and sharing their talent with a supportive and refined public audience that truly appreciates musical craft. Fort Collins has a deep musical history that resonates with the people who call it home, and the vibrant current scene only serves to further our town’s rich legacy of talent and community, we can't wait to see what's in store for our musical city. 

  • Band: GOATZ Photo By Ablaze Studios Photography
  • Band: Chess At Breakfast Photo By Tyler Weston
  • Band: Plasma Canvas Photo By Tyler Weston
  • Band: Oh Like Wow Photo By Backstage Flash
  • Band: 3420 Photo By Sam Sanders
  • Band: Write Minded Photo By Tara Gracer
  • Band: The Cat Calls Photo By Lisa Dibbern
  • Band: The Kity Project & Guests Photo By Merissa Wellman