Mike Finders, lead singer and songwriter for Fort Collins-based bluegrass band FY5, is drawn to song-centered music.
To him, that means bluegrass, a style he said encourages new songs. Because the twang of a banjo or mandolin and the lilting notes of a fiddle are integral to the sound of bluegrass, musicians who play the style are comfortable working within it, and jamming with each other to discover new patterns that turn into new songs.
The bluegrass scene is vibrant in Colorado, Finders said, in large part because it fits so well with the state’s blue skies and purple mountains. The scenery and the weather means there’s a wealth of great bluegrass musicians here.
But at this summer’s Concert Under the Stars series at the University of Northern Colorado, FY5’s performance will be in a new, indoor venue. Although the concert series name directly refers to its typical venue, the university’s outdoor Garden Theatre stage, more than half of this year’s shows will be in the new Campus Commons Performance Hall.
The concert series began in 1931, and traditionally it has consisted of free, outdoor shows. Mark Allwein, a marketing specialist with the University of Northern Colorado, said the main reason for the change was so the university could attract more notable acts. The first show, July 12, will be a performance from the Colorado Symphony. The symphony wouldn’t have fit on the Garden Theatre stage, Allwein said.
But the move, he said, will also encourage people to pay for the art they enjoy. The university doesn’t have a sponsor for the concerts, so it needs a way to sustain the series. The ticket cost, which ranges from $10-$30 for the indoor concerts also, Allwein said, allows the school to bring in acts like FY5. “Music is art and art has value, so we try to bring that value to our art,” he said.
Finders said FY5 is excited to bring their musical art to Greeley. This year will be the band’s first time playing in the Concert Under the Stars series in its nine years of existence. “We’re honored and grateful to be invited,” he said.
Even for Greeley area residents who don’t always seek out a bluegrass show, the style is what Finders calls “authentic and honest.” There are no sound-altering effects on the instruments, and the musicians, a five-piece mini-orchestra that comprises a bluegrass band, have to work together, playing off each other in order to function.
Every sound works with other sounds. Perhaps most notably is the beat of the band, which Finders said is largely found in the interplay between bass and mandolin. “They have to play together: ‘boom-chuck, boom-chuck, boom-chuck,'” he said. “They’re integrated that way with each other.”
The band members are well-versed in working together, having all played together for nine years, but as is common with small to mid-level touring acts, they all play non-musical roles for the band too. The banjo player, Finders said, handles the money, the mandolin player does the booking, the bass player handles social media and the fiddler does web work.
“If you’re doing it right you have to play your part, because your part’s needed for other people to play theirs,” Finders said.
Check out the 2019 Concert Under the Stars series at the University of Northern Colorado lineup below.
- Friday, July 12: Mozart Under Moonlight with the Colorado Symphony – 7:30 pm, Campus Commons Performance Hall. Tickets $22–$30
- Sunday, July 14: Mariachi Aztlán and Ballet Folklorico – 7:30 pm, Campus Commons Performance Hall. Tickets $10–$15
- Tuesday, July 16: Colorado Jazz Orchestra – 8 pm, UNC Garden Theatre. FREE, no ticket required
- Friday, July 19: FY5 – New American Roots – 7:30 pm, Campus Commons Performance Hall. Tickets $10–$15
- Sunday, July 21: UNC Alumni Band – 8 p.m, UNC Garden Theatre. FREE, no ticket required