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Peggy Lyle talks FoCoMX and the Northern Colorado music scene

peggy lyle focoma focomx fort collins music

Earlier this month I sat down with Peggy Lyle, the Executive Director of the Fort Collins Music Association (FoCoMA), which is the parent organization of FoCoMX, the annual music festival taking place April 19-20 in Fort Collins.

Related: See the complete 2024 FoCoMX artist lineup and schedule

Lyle has been in the Colorado music scene for over 20 years; producing, booking, and marketing special events. During our conversation we talked about the upcoming FoCoMX music festival, which features more than 400 Colorado bands and artists; the origins of the festival; why it focuses mostly on Northern Colorado artists; and how it stays fresh every year. I also wanted to know how she would describe FoCoMX to someone who just moved to Colorado.

Below are highlights from our conversation.

The Colorado Sound: Thanks for speaking with us today. Can you introduce yourself?

Peggy Lyle: I’m the executive director for the Fort Collins Musicians Association, and we’re the folks who put together our region’s largest music festival, the Fort Collins Music Experiment. So I get to do all kinds of great musician-related things and music-related events throughout the year. But of course, [FoCoMX] is the big lift and a ton of fun. We’re 16 years old this year.

Imagine I’m someone who just moved to Colorado and have no idea what FoCoMX is. How would you describe it?

Oh, gosh. A must-attend event. We have 400 bands, all Colorado music, happening in just two days at 35 venues, all in downtown Fort Collins. It’s a taste of Colorado music, and it’s super affordable, a way to go out, meet your neighbors, support musicians, and have a really genuine music experience and experiment.

I’ve been to two FoCoMXs, and both times I was blown away. How did the idea for FoCoMX come about?

It actually came around really organically. So 17 years ago, a group of volunteers got together and said, ‘Hey, we’re struggling with some of our venues. We don’t have enough places for local musicians and bands to play. How can we start working together to try to support some of these independent venues?’

Through that, we had an event called the Peer Awards, where bands were awarding each other. It was a mixer, a time for them to get together and really admire each other’s work. That was just way too much fun. We had some music performances as part of that. We said, ‘All right, wait a second. We can support the venues, we can showcase all the musicians, and we can do it in a really genuine way that makes community.’ And so we started FoCoMX.

There are other festivals that have similar grassroots efforts originally, like South by Southwest, though you wouldn’t know it today. It’s obviously so large and has many components. But [the general idea was], how can we get everyone together, showcase our industry in one weekend?

Why does FoCoMX focus on the Northern Colorado music scene?

We do accept anyone from anywhere in Colorado. It’s just a little bit further for folks to drive. But when we originated the festival, it was all about supporting our neighbors and showcasing the rich talent that was in Fort Collins. Then we really, very quickly expanded to Northern Colorado.

The other main factor is that we have so much talent in Northern Colorado that we are already having to turn away a huge number of bands who apply. We’re only really reaching down to Denver, maybe a couple from Colorado Springs. So if we were to involve everyone across the state, I think we’d have to add a couple more days and certainly some more stages.

Instead of 400 performances, it’d be like 800 or 1,000.

Exactly. I’m tired already.

How do you keep FoCoMX fresh every year?

That’s a challenge. What’s great is, the musicians are keeping it fresh too. So they’re really excited to play the festival. They usually are working on albums right before they’re sometimes breaking up as groups, and other projects are coming online. So what we do is we look through it and make sure that we’re including a number of discovery artists. This year, we’ll probably have about 40% brand new to the festival acts coming through, which is amazing. Of course, we want to support our tried-and-true and really established artists, but they’re pushing to keep it fresh as well.

We try very hard to make sure we’re including all kinds of genres. We have noise genre. We have a little of everything for everyone. We also try to showcase artists in different parts of their careers. Some of them that are out touring on a regular basis, winning awards, and other ones who this is their baby band. So with all those things balanced, we end up with a really fresh product. We also try to bring in some other partners to make things new and interesting. Sometimes we include comedy. We’ve included theater, dance. We’re really showcasing our DJs this year. Yeah, we just try to make sure that we’re challenging ourselves to be new and fresh and make it a great show.

I really am so excited for FoCoMX. It’s April 19 and 20 in downtown Fort Collins. Peggy, thanks for speaking with me today.

Oh my gosh. Thank you for being such a music fan, and it’s going to be a great time. I can’t wait to see everyone.

FoCoMX take place April 19 and 20 at various venues and locations throughout downtown Fort Collins, Colo. Tickets for the full weekend of shows and events are on sale now on the FoCoMX website.

Related pages:

The Colorado Sound Music Awards – meet the 2023 winners

Top 850 Cover Songs – see the complete list of songs based on your votes

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