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Fort Collins Finds An Opportunity In Plug-And-Play Spaces For Working Musicians

Stacy Nick
Fort Collins band Lion Drome rehearsing at Higher Ground.

Dayton Hicks, bassist for the band Fierce Bad Rabbit, got an unwelcome Christmas surprise back in 2012. Some Grinch had looted the storage unit/rehearsal space they shared with another band of more than $30,000 worth of equipment.

"At first you're kind of in shock and then the reality of the situation sets in and you're just like … 'Great, there goes all of our stuff,'" Hicks said.

As bad as that day was for him, it got people in Fort Collins talking – including Angel Kwiatkowski, a co-working entrepreneur who saw a problem. Why isn't there a dedicated, flexible space for musicians to work?

"I found myself not being able to sleep because I kept thinking about it and thinking, how could we solve that problem," said the founder of Cohere, a co-working organization that offers those without dedicated office space a place to work other than the neighborhood coffee shop.

Kwiatkowski believed musicians deserve the same opportunities as other working professionals.

"They said that the bass tones would interfere with the female lizard's ovulation."

"What if every day when you went to work you didn't know if your laptop would be there or your office was infested with mice or your office had a dirt floor and plywood walls," she said. "That wouldn't be OK; nobody would stand for that. So why have we allowed musicians to do their work in such deplorable conditions for so long?"

That prompted Kwiatkowski to create Cohere Bandwidth. The 900-square-foot studio – which will feature two rehearsal rooms equipped with microphones, amps and drums so musicians can plug in and play – is set to open in Fort Collins in April 2015 as part of the Downtown Artery.

It wasn't an easy endeavor, though. Finding the right space – conveniently located for musicians but not somewhere that would disturb the neighbors – proved tougher than anticipated.

"We ran into a variety of hilarious situations where we got close to signing a lease," Kwiatkowski said, including one location that was next door to a reptile breeder.

"They said that the bass tones would interfere with the female lizard's ovulation," she laughed.

Cohere Bandwidth isn't alone in the business of catering to musicians. Across town another local rehearsal space run by Higher Ground is already open.

Fort Collins rock band Lion Drome has used Higher Ground for everything from drummer auditions to preparing for upcoming gigs. The business also offers several rehearsal rooms featuring full backlines of equipment to make it easy for musicians to get to work.

Frontman Mike Lopez said Higher Ground co-owner Jason Eichel knows how to take care of bands.

"You come in and (Eichel has) got the amps turned on so the tubes are warming up, he's got the PA already turned on, he's got water laid out … I mean, it's just short of, you know, mint on a pillow when you come in," Lopez said. "It's really nice."

At the Downtown Artery, musicians staying in the art hub's Artery Pads will find chocolates on their pillows.

A mini-hotel for musicians, the Artery Pads feature beds, private bathrooms and a kitchenette for $80 a night. The venue's "green room" can fit up to six people comfortably. The Artery will soon complete an expansion that will include a performance venue, a café, and a recording studio/record label, as well as Cohere Bandwidth.

Artery co-owner and Director of Operations Amy Bradley said it's all part of the original plan, to create a business that caters to the revival of the working artist. That's something that Dayton Hicks can appreciate.

"Inspiration comes from anywhere but, yeah, you need a place you're going to be comfortable with," he said.

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
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