Features, Print June 29, 2020

Going For It: Live Music Returns, At A Distance

by Dan England

Dani Grant will produce her second live show during the pandemic at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre the night before Independence Day – and she’s not doing it for the money. 

“The food and beverage doesn’t cut it, but bands are getting out, and people now get to see live music,” Grant, the Mishawaka’s owner and general manager said. “This is important. And the mood of my staff and customers is euphoric.”

For independent music venues and clubs across Colorado, July 1 is perhaps as important as the day we celebrate our independence as a nation. Governor Polis’ new guidelines take effect that day, allowing the assembly of crowds which make live music possible, if not exactly feasible. The Moxi in Greeley will host live shows in July, and a few other clubs in Northern Colorado will as well, even as other well-known clubs won’t do much, if anything, until September.

Socially distanced, outdoor table seating at The Mishawaka Amphitheatre, June 2020.
Lake Street Dive performs to a full-capacity, sold-out Mishawaka crowd, August, 2019.
Photo: Sunny Side Production

“The Mish,” an outdoor arena next to the Poudre River, hosted a show in June, but it didn’t sell well, Grant said. She had 16 tables of eight people, and the tables were 15 feet apart. She learned a lot from that show. “We were so worried, that we were really conservative,” Grant said. 

For the next show, she broke tables into twos, fours and sixes, keeping the six foot distances between each. It’s hard to find a group of eight these days who feel comfortable around each other, she said. She also booked more well-known bands: Tenth Mountain Division and Andrew McConathy & the Drunken Hearts – ticket sales are already much better. 

Grant said sponsors donated $30,000 just to make music happen at the Mish, which helped cover the money she plans to lose on the show. The problem is, of course, she can’t have the big ticket-holding crowds, yet the work-load didn’t change much despite audience size being of a tenth of what she’s used to. Plus, bands, along with the people who physically help put on the show, still need to be paid.

Flip through our entire July issue at BandWagMag.com or find a print copy at cool spots in NoCo and Cheyenne on July 1st!

In Fort Collins, Hodi’s Half Note will offer some shows this month, and so will Washington’s, but the Aggie and the Armory won’t offer a show until September. The Moxi in Greeley, however, will have Shane Smith & the Saints in July as well as a few other shows. 

Ely Corliss, the Moxi’s owner, said he’ll evenly space-out reserved tables and will encourage his customers to honor social distancing as well as wear masks. His staff will wear masks too, and offer table service. 

“We will be socially distanced as best as possible,” Corliss said. “We are going for it. I won’t do it every weekend night, but I want to get back to work slowly, when it makes sense and we can do our best to be safe.”

Many national bands are still playing it safe and postponing tours, so Corliss plans to offer more local bands, possibly until the end of the year. “The touring industry is cautious,” Corliss said. “They have to go through multiple states.”

And so there is some live music again in Colorado, and that’s enough to make people happy for now.

“Regardless of the bottom line,” Grant said of this summer at the Mishawaka, “It feels good to be active.”