Michael Gormley’s scrappy nonprofit has reemerged as the centerpiece of Fort Collins’ DIY scene.
Not too late one Saturday night in April, the sales floor of the Fort Collins consignment shop Funktional was transformed into a mosh pit. The young and riotous crowd bounced off each other, limbs flailing. One paternally concerned middle-aged metal show veteran carefully removed a nearby rack of CDs with the help of Funktional’s owner, Stacy Koeckeritz.
“No judging others. This is my serenity,” Zack Whitmer of Fort Collins hardcore straight-edge band xDeadBeatx, screamed into the mic as he dodged an elbow.
The 40 people in the room felt like 500.
Funktional is the latest in the long list of spots that have hosted Blast N’ Scrap events over the past year. Though the nonprofit has lacked a home base since the local reuse store Who Gives A Scrap shut down early in the pandemic, it hasn’t slowed down. According to founder and executive director Michael Gormely, known to many as Blasti, the organization has hosted 51 pop-up concerts since last June with at least six more as of press time.
“I don’t know – that number seems low to me, but we had to postpone some shows because of Omicron,” Gormley explained nonchalantly. By comparison, Washington’s, a big budget venue in the heart of Old Town Fort Collins, only hosted 42 shows in that same period.
Though Blast N’ Scrap events now include established local bands like DEBR4H, Native Station and People in General, Gormley adamantly says they will always be there for local bands to “play their first show.” Almost every Blast N’ Scrap show features a few low-profile acts like the high school band Clementine who played covers and originals to an adoring crowd at the 830 North bowling alley in Fort Collins, where local singer-songwriter Luisa Walker, aka Bug, later took the stage.
A Serendipitous Rise
The prolific volume of Blast N’ Scrap initiatives is due, in large part, to the scruffy 38-year old at the helm. Gormley is bursting with ideas and, since he got sober four years ago, he’s been damn good at following through on them.
“There’s 15 years of my life that I could have been doing this stuff, but I wasn’t because I was living in a hole,” Gormley told Bandwagon. “I’m an addict. Now I’m just a workaholic.”
Gormley can’t sit still. During this interview he continuously ate hard candies, twirling a toothpick between his index and middle fingers. Mornings, he drives a truck for the Food Bank, picking up surplus commodities from grocery stores. In the afternoon, he pours himself into Blast N’ Scrap projects. Evenings, he’s either bouncing around a show taking videos and chatting, or at home with his wife and dogs for a rare bit of domestic relaxation. It’s not in his nature to procrastinate.
Though Blast N’ Scrap has quickly become a robust and well-connected nonprofit, its emergence was more serendipitous than premeditated. An obsessive follower of the weirdo jam band Ween, Gormley earned his nickname, Blasti, after painting “Blast Man,” a Ween reference, on to the back of a cape he found. The Blast Man cape became Gormley’s unofficial uniform at Ween shows and the nickname followed soon after.
In 2019, Gormley was newly sober and searching for purpose. When his car mechanic’s daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia, he organized a cape-making party at Who Gives a Scrap. It was so successful, that the reuse store greenlighted him to run a series of charity concerts and cape-making workshops which eventually morphed into Blast N’ Scrap.
Though the pandemic shut down this first iteration, Gormley refused to let the organization smolder. He was not about to give up on a project that had given him immense purpose and drive for the first time in his adult life. Instead, he enlisted the help of a close friend in the nonprofit world. It was time for Blast N’ Scrap to go legit. While venues and clubs were scrambling to cut costs, Blast N’ Scrap quietly obtained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, built a website and fostered partnerships with a diverse group of Colorado-based and national organizations. When live music reemerged in the summer of 2021, Gormley was ready.
While most club shows are designed to extract value from an audience, Blast N’ Scrap shows are designed to provide value to the community. Up-charged tickets are replaced with a pay-what-you-can cover. In lieu of a bar serving shots and watered-down cocktails, volunteers hand out free narcan and fentanyl test strips (which rapidly counteract and help avert opioid overdoses, respectively) and condoms. The merch table is filled with sustainably-sourced Blast N’ Scrap swag. A second table collects clothing and food donations for local humanitarian organizations.
Blast N’ Scrap’s youth programs are designed to instill the same values in kids as the ones exemplified at its shows: unbridled creativity, sustainability and inclusivity. In Crafty Community Theater, kids write, cast and design short plays using recycled materials.
“’Sharing and caring’ is inherent in young children,” Gormley said. “It’s more about teaching them not to lose it.”
Even through his worst years of drunken listlessness, Gormley turned to music for solace and kinship. Now that he’s healthy and living well, he wants to provide that same sense of community and catharsis to people who might have been left out of the music scene in the past – even those who don’t hear music the same way he does. At the aforementioned 830 North show, an ASL interpreter signed lyrics and played air guitar from a perch on the front corner of the stage.
“Music is my home. It’s the only thing that, wherever I go and whatever I do, if it’s not part of the mix I don’t feel settled,” Gormley said. “Access to the arts is important.”
Check out Blast N’ Scrap at www.BlastNScrap.org and don’t miss the organization’s first show at Launch: Community Through Skateboarding in Fort Collins on May 21 at 1 p.m. featuring Gone Full Heathen, Princess Dewclaw and Watching People Drown.