Writer and photographer Alan Crandall submitted the following guest blog:
As recently as September of last year the fate of Mishawaka Amphitheatre, better known as the “Mish,” in Bellvue Colorado was uncertain. Facing legal trouble, previous owner Robin Jones hoped for a buyer with plans to keep the music venue intact. Jones found that and more in the new owner Dani Grant.
Nestled next to the Poudre River on Hwy 14 outside of Fort Collins, the Mish has a tradition of offering a rich musical performance space in a rustic mountain atmosphere.
Previous years performers include G-Love & Special Sauce, David Grisman Quintent, Devotchka, Leo Kottke, moe, George Clinton and P-Funk, Rusted Root, Arlo Guthrie, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Joan Baez and Gov’t Mule… just to name a few.
The Mishawaka’s website lists one of the new management’s goals as “To invigorate the venue with facility improvements while maintaining the strength of its canyon roots and rustic charm.” Invigorate and improve is just what Grant’s team has done.
Parking is limited and used to be a real issue at the Mish. Now you need but pick your shuttle location in Fort Collins or Longmont and the ride is a fun way to head to a show. The ride there is exciting and filled with scenery and the ride home navigates the mountain roads with ease. If you choose to drive, arrive early and be ready to pay a premium to park. I recommend, if driving, that you carpool and split the parking fee.
I arrived at the venue early and the party had already started with DJ Mikey Thunder as the opener. Thunder’s mixes helped kick off the evening and kept the groove going during the set breaks. The threat of rain had subsided and the clouds gave way to a beautiful star filled sky. With the snow run-off the Poudre river was spilling over its banks in areas up the canyon, and at the Mish the water danced and splashed with rapid currents as the music played.
Immediately I noticed some venue improvements. A gate allowed street entrance to the performance area and a VIP stage has been constructed on the left side of the venue boarding on the back stage entrance.
Around 9 pm March Fourth (M4) opened the show with a performance like none other with up to 14 musicians on the stage at any one time, including multiple percussion players, drummers, horns, bass and guitar players. Fronting the band were dancing girls, acrobats and stilt walker/dancer/performers. The band’s website describes March Fourth as “a date, a command, and a band. Imagine Duke Ellington meets Sgt. Pepper in an international big-top Fantasia.”
The dancers and performers interacted with the audience with acrobatic feats, crowd surfing and rigorous dance sessions. Some audiences need to be coaxed into motion, this crowd however was instantly dancing to the groove and enthralled by the circus-like atmosphere of M4’s Big Band, funk filled jams. I spoke with Juno What!’s Steveland Swatkins, who said that M4 fields up to double the number of performers at larger venues or festivals. Their show was a high-energy, dynamic and funky good time.
By the time the Motet took to the stage many in the crowd were worked into frenzy. Under the star filled sky, with the river raging only feet away the energy was palatable. The Motet performed their funky improvised jams with tight precision change ups loaded with fun and often making reference to the wonderful night, great venue and lively audience the band called “Mishawakeans.”
Some of the evening’s highlights were the March Fourth members joining the Motet on the stage and the performers and dancers once again entertaining the audience with their dance moves. Add to that more performers spinning fiery staffs and whirling balls of fire in front of the audience and you have one big night of electrified music-carnival fun.
The Mish is not only still alive, it is thriving. The amphitheater offers a wonderful space for many types of artistic performances. Many more great times are to be had at the northern Colorado venue. Some of this seasons bands on tap include: Leo Kottke, Stephen Marley, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Hot Tuna, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Todd Snider the Story Teller, Featuring Great American Taxi, Trichome with Zobomaze, Shpongle, Cody Canada And The Departed, Keb’ Mo’, Dark Star Orchestra, Robert Earl Keen, Keller Williams, Punch Brothers Featuring Chris Thile and Sam Bush to name a few.
For more information check the venue website.
With the wonderful mountain venue renewed, the new management’s dedication to the arts and the great lineup of coming events, you will find me in attendance again soon.
The Motet had CD’s for sale at the show for one dollar. So if you get a chance to catch a Motet performance, several are scheduled for the Front Range, take and extra buck or two and score some CD’s. To find out about upcoming shows, visit their website.