Stayin’ Alive: Unconventional Venues Save The Scene

by Gabe Allen

When Ben Mozer was 14, he took a trip to Granada, Spain with his family. Across from their hotel, a theater was playing the newly released Tarentino smash hit Pulp Fiction, which he and his brother had been unable to see in the U.S. due to its R rating. As soon as they had the chance to slip away, Mozer and his brother walked over.

But what stuck with him after the movie was over wasn’t Samuel L. Jackson’s iconic pseudo-biblical monologue: “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.” What stuck with him was the theater. 

“It was huge. There was a bar in the back and another bar up front,” Mozer said. “We ordered a beer and then had a pleather couch all to ourselves for the movie.”

Shtonk Brass perform at The Lyric Cinemas outdoor screen in Fort Collins. Photo by McKenzie Tharp

Mozer has spent the past three years converting an old warehouse on a two acre lot on North College Ave in Fort Collins into a venue that evokes that teenage experience. Although the venue was originally conceived as a bigger home for The Lyric, the independent theater that he opened downtown in 2007, it has continually expanded its offerings.

Earlier in the winter, the Lyric was one of the only venues in Northern Colorado that was still producing live music. Mozer struck up a deal with a number of local bands: they could use the Lyric’s mainstage and P.A. system for rehearsals if they played a live set on the patio. Tonguebyte, Mission to Maybe, Fancy Bits and a few others have taken Mozer up on his offer and played weekend shows in the afternoon sun.

But Mozer isn’t the only one finding a creative way to amplify local sounds. After shutting down his venue Hodi’s Half Note when the pandemic hit, Dan Mladenik started working as a talent buyer at the Mishawaka Amphitheater. This winter he has tapped local talent for the Mishawaka-produced Live on the Lanes series at Chipper’s Lanes, which is right across the street from the Lyric. The events are a phantasmagoria that melds cosmic bowling with late night coffee-house vibes.

Chippers Lanes converts to a combined live music and cosmic bowling space via the production crew from The Mishawaka Amphitheatre.

“This is the pro crew from the Mishawaka – our sound guys and production manager,” Mladenik said. “We’ve got a whole set up of lights and black lights. After a couple of songs, everybody gets the vibe and it comes together.”

So far, Dave Watts of the Motet, the Runaway Grooms and a number of other local acts have graced the stage. Attendees can either reserve a bowling lane or a table for the performance. 

Soon, even after some venues reopen, many will remain closed and others will remain changed. For Mozer, the downturn in business has given him plenty of time to envision the future. One which includes, among other things, art installations, summer music festivals and a – quote – “sacrificial pig roast.” 

“The comparisons I’ve been getting are Burning Man and Meow Wolf,” Mozer said, planning for a vivid, fantastical future for the Fort Collins art and music scene.

For tickets and information on upcoming shows, visit and