The Inaugural Engage Music Festival Shows Promise for the Future
Story by Dom Vigil
Photos by Shannon Shumaker
Last weekend, twenty-one Colorado bands came together for the inaugural Engage Music Festival, which took over both stages at Summit Music Hall for twelve hours of non-stop local music. The concept of bringing together local artists for a day, or even a weekend-long music festival isn’t necessarily a unique idea, as any Colorado resident and music lover is at least somewhat familiar with festivals like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but what Engage founder Ben Weir did for the first year of this festival took guts. Spearheaded and funded almost entirely by himself and supported by friends that he has made over the years in the local music scene as the vocalist of the alternative rock band, Tonight We Rise, Weir essentially created this new festival from the ground up, booking all of the artists and finding every single sponsor on his own. Engage Music Festival certainly isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s definitely unique in its execution.
The first ever Engage Music Festival didn’t come without its own fair share of hurdles, as a few bands dropped off of the lineup and a couple more were added and moved around last minute, but for the most part, things went off without a hitch. The doors at Summit Music Hall opened to a decent sized line at promptly 12:00pm, and by 12:30, the first band, VYNYL, was hitting the main stage and kicking the day off with high energy. With over twenty bands, two stages, and only five minute gaps between the end of one set and beginning of another, one of my main concerns before the day of the fest was that things might end up running behind. All it could take is one band running over on their set time, and the entire day would be thrown off. But throughout the day, the show ran very smoothly, never once going behind schedule as one great artist after another took the stage.
There were quite a few challenges that came with making Engage possible, from a constantly changing schedule to a weekend full of competing shows and festivals such as Big Gig, Velorama and New West Fest. From an outside perspective, the odds didn’t seem to be in Weir’s favor, but throughout the day, he constantly had a positive attitude and could be found rushing back and forth throughout Summit Music Hall in order to assure that everything was running smoothly. The positivity seemed to be infectious, as each artist who took the stage was enthusiastic about the festival and the possibilities that it offered to the local scene. As someone who grew up attending Broomstock, a free local festival that took place in Broomfield throughout the early 2000’s, the camaraderie between the local artists and even concert goers at Engage was similar to the vibe of Broomstock. Since the Broomfield festival’s decline in recent years and ultimate end in 2016, there has been a significant void left in the local scene, but I left Engage on Saturday wondering if maybe, this could be the festival to fill it.
Obviously, the first year of any festival doesn’t come without room for improvement, but I have high hopes for Engage Music Festival moving forward. This year, the weekend that Engage happened to be booked on proved to be a big challenge, but that’s an easy obstacle for the festival to overcome moving forward. I don’t know what the future holds for the Engage, but if Weir could possibly shoot for an earlier weekend in the summer, there will likely be less conflicting events the next time around.
This year, another one of the main issues that I noticed was that there seemed to be a lot of bands of similar genres booked, but with plans to open up band submissions for the next festival, a more diverse lineup is certainly possible. The Colorado music scene is massive. Even as a writer and editor of a local publication, I’m constantly amazed that there are still new local artists to discover every single day. Even the larger local festivals like The UMS and Westword aren’t able to showcase all of Colorado’s great local talent, and if Engage could fill that gap and provide attendees with even more great music, it’ll only continue to help cultivate our strong and ever-growing local scene. With a few adjustments and even more time to plan, there’s no doubt that Engage Music Festival will only grow and flourishwith each coming year.
To stay up to date on news regarding Engage Music Festival, visit https://www.facebook.com/EngageMusicFest/
View a photo gallery from this year's Engage Music Festival, featuring artists such as AMZY, One Flew West, Citra, The Hollow, Postcards, The Anchor and more HERE.