The iAm Music Festival, sponsored by Durango’s own iAm Music Institute, is in its third and biggest year. What we’re talking is $35 for 30 bands plus a mime parade, a silent disco, a sax mob, an International Day of Peace celebration, a community art project, a circus performance, and MORE! Sniff those party pants, wash ’em if you need to, because Durango’s gonna be a riot of revelry.
And, AND! This year, the iAm Music Institute hooked up with the Colorado Music Strategy to put on the second annual Colorado Music Summit. Free to musicians and industry folks who register, the Colorado Music Summit is a secondary conference taking place all weekend, full of panels and events created by music industry leaders to help musicians take their work to the next level.
DGO spoke to Ashley Edwards and Jesse Ogle, founders of the iAm Music Institute and lead members of the band Hello, Dollface, about the fest and the Colorado Music Summit.
Last year was kinda rough for the iAm Music fest. What happened?
Ashley Edwards: Last year, we had a total of nine stages across Durango from Buckley Park to the Smiley Building to all the theaters. We were so spread out. This year we decided to take the majority of the festival indoors. Our official showcase venues are Animas City Theatre, Durango Arts Center, and the Henry Strater Theatre.
Jesse Ogle: One of the issues with last year, all of the shows that didn’t do well were the daytime shows. People didn’t want to go listen to music in the day. I guess they wanted to go mountain biking or something. (Laughs)
Edwards: Historically, that weekend, we also found out was a poor weekend. It was right before school started, college students weren’t back yet.
This year the iAm Music Fest partnered with the Colorado Music Strategy. What does that mean?
Edwards: The Colorado Music Strategy is a statewide effort to support musicians. It helps create economic revenue and development through music and art. They provided a grant for us to host the Colorado Music Summit.
What is the Colorado Music Summit?
Edwards: It’s a networking weekend for musicians to build authentic relationships between each other statewide. Musicians can get to know industry people and find the support to make their art more sustainable.
There’s a welcome party, five educational panels free to musicians who register online, an after-party, a wrap-up party, and a few events between. It’s free. You just have to register.
What all does iAm Music do?
Edwards: Our mission is defined as cultivating conscious creativity, community, and empowerment through music. That applies to anyone whether they’re at DeNier (detention center) or they’re an adult who needs group coaching on a project or the gigging world. Maybe you’re a new student on guitar who wants to learn or a songwriter who is ready to record and book shows. We can help find musicians gigs in the community when they’re ready. We do free instrument rentals so there’s nothing holding you back from getting access to a PA or a guitar or a piano. We hold events to build community and to bring the music and business districts together.
It’s attempting to help musicians create, connect, and be professionally stable and showcasing what that artistic economic factor means to the wider community.
Getting into the iAm Music Fest, what acts are you stoked for?
Ogle: Paa Kow. The leader is out of Ghana. It’s an eight piece. That’s gonna be a great vibe.
Imaginario Circus. They’ll do about a half hour preview of their Halloween show.
Edwards: Chimney Choir out of Denver were here last year. They’ll be back … I love seeing their evolution every year.
There’s so much music. There’s about 30 bands between two nights. Thursday is the kickoff party with fire dancers and is more focused on the International Day of Peace.
Let Them Roar is a folk project out of Carbondale with a lot of activism in their mission. We have anything from delirious roots music to good vibes. That’s an actual genre, good vibes. We have a multi-instrumentalist cellist, his name is Russick Smith.
This year is exciting because it is all Colorado musicians.
There’s also a lot of non-musician artists at the fest. What’s up with that?
Edwards: Through #ArtistsOccupy, I contacted leaders from comedy, poetry, and visual arts. I’m trying to establish contacts with leaders in these different artistic mediums to ask, “What can iAm Music do to support you? How can we create waves from iAm Music Fest and keep it going?”
What’s the hidden hard part of throwing a music fest?
Edwards: Festivals, with all of the details, you need a really serious team. We’re doing this with basically five people, down to website design, graphic design, everything. We’re all doing this while we are full-time musicians.
Ogle: The most challenging thing might be trying to create stronger music culture in Durango. Pagosa and Telluride are more known for festivals … There is no independent, all-genre music festival around. That concept doesn’t exist in the Four Corners. Bigger pop names go to Telluride. Pagosa has niche fests with big headliners.
Edwards: We’re trying to put a fire under the bands’ asses to realize the potential of fully cultivating their music. There’s a ton of original projects here. It’s so easy to tour, to get connected. I feel like people are hungry for connection, for expression. I think the most challenging thing is saying, “Look, you have something amazing, let’s share it.” This whole community will thrive as people step up and share their talents. That’s kinda utopian, but there’s so many programs in Colorado that are supporting bands.
A lot of those programs will come up on Colorado Music Summit panels, yeah? What’s the absolute must-not-miss panel?
Edwards: Personally, I’m really interested in the Colorado Music Strategy panel (on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.) where the Colorado Music Strategist will be talking about all the opportunities available to musicians.
All of the panels are exciting. It’s veterans of indie music giving you the shoulds and should-nots of how to be successful. Giving you programs they hand-created with state funding to help you succeed.
What’s the most gratifying thing, after all the hard work, of throwing a music fest?
Edwards: It defines friendships and what is important to you. You can lose sight if you are constantly pushing to make your career happen in any medium. You can get lost in, “OK, three years just went by and I played 600 shows. Where are my connections at? How am I relating to people?” For me, the most gratifying part is watching friendships spark and seeing the connections that will create waves. It’s watching what happens when you give people the opportunity to be vulnerable in a space together. It can be healing. Especially in these political times, we need connection.
Why does a normal, non-musician human being want to go to the fest?
Edwards: You won’t know what to expect. There’s a silent disco happening. You might walk down the street and get mobbed by a mime parade. You could walk in and discover a band that could change the way you feel about life and Durango … It will be four days of awesomeness and music.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer