The music industry has always been an unpredictable mess. Never an easy way to make a living, the music business is an unpredictable venture with ever-changing rules and ever-changing methods of distribution.
When the internet made it so you could get all the music you ever wanted for free, it solidified the idea that live performance was where it was at. You want to make a buck? Go on tour.
Then March 2020 rolled around, and the party was crashed and every musician who was packing their bags for spring and summer tours had their calendars cleared.
The industrious bunch at iAM MUSIC, who had been planning their annual summer festival, had to put their thinking caps back on and figure out how to put on an event that follows state-regulated orders regarding capacity and social distancing. The solution was host an event with reserved seating, selling tickets in blocks, then block those reserved areas off on the festival grounds.
Featuring J. Calvin, Ghost Tapes and Alex Blocker, the iAM Music Festival will take place Saturday in Buckley Park, with a kickoff party happening Friday at The Nugget Mountain Bar north of town.
“The idea is we take over a large public space, and we have groups of two, four or six. We don’t sell single tickets, we sell groups,” said iAM Music founder and foundation director Jesse Ogle. “So find a group. If you’re a couple, great; if you have a group of four, awesome. If you have five people, buy for a group of six and you have an extra chair. The guidelines are 6 feet distances, but ours will be closer to 10 or 12 from the outside of each space. So if you’re inside your space, it’s even more, so we’re being super safe. This concert will be safer than going to the grocery store.”
The festival will feature two different shows, with band order for the matinee being J. Calvin, followed by Ghost Tapes, then Alex Blocker. The order will be reversed for the later set.
Blocker is a local violin player whose music fuses old-school R&B, hip-hop and funk. Ghost Tapes is a Denver based band that plays self-described “modern soul,” with plans to release their new album “FIG” later this year.
J. Calvin, a band made up of instructors from iAM MUSIC, continues to remain busy. They’ll be road testing songs from their forthcoming new record at this year’s festival, as well as promoting the single “Choose Love,” a collaborative tune recorded by members of J. Calvin, Ghost Tapes and other bands that are part of the iAM MUSIC scene.
These musicians won’t let a pandemic get them down. In addition to J. Calvin putting the finishing touches on a record, its members are also doing time in Funk Express, a jazz and funk instrumental outfit playing tonight’s kick-off event at The Nugget. Even if livelihoods are threatened, the musicians and instructors who kick around iAM Music are still doing what they can to hone their craft, all in an effort to come out with instruments blazing when live music returns to being a regular thing.
“Right now, all you can do as musicians is work on music and work on your craft because there’s not a lot of shows,” Ogle said. “We could be like ‘poor me,’ but what are we gonna do? Let’s reinvent ourselves, let’s be creative, let’s produce music, because people still need music.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.