Beautiful and Real

Live music will help us move on from seasons of isolation and grief.

Last month I was lucky enough to attend the Sunday night event at the Bluebird Music Festival here in Boulder. I don’t know if it’s just because we have been denied live music during COVID or if the artists were particularly keyed up for the venue, but it was a show—featuring three powerful women artists—that left my heart pumping and reaffirmed how important live music is to my life. Syrian-American singer songwriter Bedouine—whom The Colorado Sound (105.5 FM) presenter Ron Bostwick compared to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen—kicked it off, bringing the crowd to a lovely and powerful catharsis with her song “Louise” (meaning “light” in Armenian), in honor of the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of up to 1.5 million people in the early 20th century. And even if we couldn’t understand the words, the beauty of the song brought a feeling of hope over that incomprehensible legacy of violence to the silent crowd at Macky Auditorium.

Things got rowdy after that. Country rocker Margo Price and her band burst on with a high-energy show that made me want to break bottles against chicken wire. When a problem with the sound system stopped the show momentarily, she and her husband/guitarist, Jeremy Ivey, played acoustic, singing to a single mic together until the band could come back on. Even if the crowd was politely positioned (but head bopping) in Mackey’s seats instead of dancing in shitkickers in some honky tonk, the show filled me with that spontaneous energy that only live music can—and made me remember how much I miss that communal connection concerts give us.

Waxahatchee ended the night with a set that drew on the 2020 album St. Cloud, which deals with the difficulties of longing, relationships, sobriety—and is simply a beautiful, perfect collection of songs. Coming out just as lockdown hit, St. Cloud got me through that period of global isolation. I would listen to the album on my way to ski at Eldora, feeling the groove and emotion of that music in my bones driving up Coal Creek Canyon. It’s actually one of those albums I like so much I’ll try not to listen to it too often—it’s precious, to be savored. Beyond, COVID, the past two years were a tough slog in my life. The King Soopers shooting left 10 dead in the heart of our neighborhood; a friend was shot in the back; the Marshall fire left other friends homeless; the NCAR fire had me evacuated and wondering what’s actually meaningful in my own possessions; and one of my dearest friends lost both his children in a car crash. In the midst of all that personal and collective sorrow, Waxahatchee gave me something beautiful and very real. For me, the live show felt like a way to move forward from grief. It was a personal celebration of making it and finding complex beauty in a shattered world.

As was the Bluebird Music Festival. The event is a fundraiser for the Future Arts Foundation, which makes sure kids have musical instruments in a time when schools (and perhaps our whole bottom-line focused society) can’t seem to see the value of arts. It also raised money to buy instruments for kids who lost theirs in the Marshall Fire. I hope you will attend next year. Indeed, I hope you will attend so many of the music and sport festivals in this issue of Elevation Outdoors and reconnect to community, to music, and to what makes you feel fully alive in the midst of so much challenge.

Cover photo: Waxahatchee wowed the crowd at the bluebird music festival. By Lauren Hartmann

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