Diversification – Boulder Weekly
Next time you lament a bad driver in Boulder with a Texas license plate, or see another “Go back to Texas and tell your friends Colorado sucks” bumper sticker, remember that a lot of the good stuff we’re enjoying here comes from the Lone Star State: Alamo Drafthouse, Torchy’s Tacos and Dave Kennedy, founder of the local nonprofit Roots Music Project.
Kennedy sold the Texas-based company that became Match.com, which he co-founded in 1996, and has partnered with Alamo Drafthouse since its first branch in Austin in 2004. With his new venture Front Range designed to give musicians and venues locals a boost, the 56-year-old plans to bring small gigs back to Boulder.
The Fox and Boulder theaters keep a real grip on live music here, and local artists are looking for something between the cafe and small bar scene and the big venues. That’s where the Roots Music Project comes in, providing performance space for local musicians and providing a suite of services to help Boulder establishments develop thriving live music programs.
As a student at the University of Texas, Kennedy was obsessed with blues music at the legendary Antone’s, where as a child his parents sneaked him into a Muddy Waters concert. His love of music stayed with him but didn’t become a big part of his professional life until he moved to Colorado in 2004.
“I graduated, had a corporate career, started a business, had kids, and had played a little guitar in high school, but I pretty much put the guitar down. under the bed until I was 40,” Kennedy said. “My kids started rock camp at Dog House Music [in Lafayette] and saw they had a music camp for adults. I wanted to play with other people so I did and met a bunch of people and got a horrible band, but we had fun playing. We rented a practice space and when we finally practiced and were good enough to play gigs somewhere, I started trying to network and say, “How can we get a gig ?”
But the band struggled to find places to play.
“I said, ‘OK, we’re going to start a nonprofit and we’re going to put on concerts, and then we’ll just put on shows, pay the bands, and create opportunities,'” Kennedy said. national numbers, but we always match them with a local support number, that’s part of the philosophy.
That’s why Kennedy founded the Roots Music Project, which secured its current space in 2019 – inside one of the warehouses near Pearl Street and 47th Street – and recently took on its mission “to foster the local scene for musicians, fans and venues” in overdrive with concerts, lessons, rehearsal availability and more.
“The three pillars are the fans, the artists and the places,” says Kennedy. He says he realizes the importance of small venues like Denver’s Hi-Dive, where on their way to headlining big clubs and theaters, bands can grow into a place where people only come through the door to see live music. The tiny Velvet Elk Lounge helps bridge that gap in Boulder, as does Roots.
In addition to hosting concerts, lessons, and rehearsals, Roots offers free songwriting circles and even a service where a backing band learns musicians’ original compositions and helps bring them to life. There is also talk of launching DIY management and advertising workshops.
Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin, once a staple at Boulder’s much-missed Outlook Hotel, will play Roots on Friday, September 30 and host an invitation-only Masterclass Blues Workshop the night before.
Back to form
Managing a space that is both a venue and an incubator, Kennedy draws inspiration from Fort Collins’ strong local music community, particularly the city’s vital music district.
“We are on a smaller scale than them. We try to clarify our purpose and our history,” he says. “We have a big event space, but the mission is really much bigger than that. We aspire to do more things.
Roots also offers local musicians the opportunity to work and volunteer in the space, from sound management to social media. Everyone seems fair care.
During a sold-out show at Roots on a steamy Friday night in July, the venue opened its large garage door to air out and let the music flood the community. It was like one of those unforgettable nights watching music in high school or college when the venue could be anywhere — your parents’ basement, a clothing store, a skate park — and being part of a local scene was all that mattered.
Gasoline Lollipops frontman Clay Rose, who Kennedy says “has deep Boulder roots” (no pun intended), held his first songwriting showcase at Roots on Sept. 21, with others at come on Thursdays of every month in the future.
“It’s been my hope for the past decade that someone would open a small independent listening room in Boulder. Starting in the mid-1990s, they were all systematically taken down due to corporate greed in one form or another,” says Rose. “When I heard that Dave had opened Roots Music Project, I jumped at the chance to pitch him my idea for a monthly songwriter showcase. He seemed equally eager to host the event, as our visions of nurturing Boulder’s declining music scene were seemingly parallel.
As the Roots Music Project continues to expand its offerings for local artists, Rose says the nonprofit’s ultimate value lies in its potential to restore a once-thriving local music scene.
“Boulder was once known nationwide as a town where new artists could flourish,” he says. “I am grateful to Dave. His understanding of Boulder’s history and our current gold mine of talent might be just what this town needs to regenerate its amputated limbs.
On the bill: Raw Chicago Blues with Bob Margolin (Muddy Waters guitarist). Doors 6:30 p.m. and music 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 30, Roots Music Project, 4747 Pearl St., Suite V3A, Boulder. Tickets: $15 to $25 on Eventbrite