About a year and a half ago, when vocalist Julia Brochey began performing in Colorado Springs, she found her way around the music scene by networking. She posted ads on Craigslist seeking out other local artists and went to as many shows as she could. She attended open mic sessions and improv performances like the Acid Jazz Jam at the Ancient Mariner in Manitou Springs.
The brainchild of bassist Kim Stone, formerly a member of internationally known jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra, the Acid Jazz Jam is a weekly gathering of local musicians and performers. Anyone who wants their chance in the spotlight gets it, either through playing an instrument, reading original poetry, or singing. In this breeding ground for creativity, a sort of Whose Line is it Anyway? for musicians, Brochey has become a staple performer.
She's connected with many talented artists in town, but Brochey says she has noticed a disturbing trend.
"Too many musicians are expected to play cover songs to bring in the crowds," she says. "Expecting musicians to play covers is like expecting visual artists to paint replicas of Picasso and that's it."
Determined to support local original music, Brochey launched "Let's Get Uncovered," a campaign to promote artists and bands that take pride in playing their own material.
"As a listener, it seems like musicians look bored playing covers," she says. "I'm trying to bring some of that energy back."
Her efforts, or at least her fliers, have been met with some resistance. Those fliers, which feature the campaign slogan and Brochey wrapped in a white sheet with only a portion of her face showing, were banned from some venues for being too provocative. At other venues, they were torn down.
For Brochey, it's all part of the process.
"To be a musician takes determination, guts, heart and thick skin," she says. "Sometimes, it takes starving a little. I want people to understand artists as a whole. The misconceptions are vast and have created a world in which the non-commercial artists can't survive.
"Let's start with Colorado Springs residents appreciating local talent."
"When it's time to change ...'
Jeremy Facknitz, a solo artist who doubles as the guitar player for Brochey's Julia and the Unexpecteds, says the music scene in Colorado Springs is just like the city itself it has an enormous amount of potential.
"I've only lived here for eight months," Facknitz says, "but I've run into so much talent in that time. It's everywhere. All the scene needs is for people to rally around it and support it to make it flourish."
And, he says, if that means artists need to step out of their comfort zones, then so be it.
"We have this tendency to wait for music to come to us," he says. "That's why everyone's driving around right now blasting Fergie."
"Artists are doing a lot of complaining," adds Brochey. "It is up to us to make the change."
With Brochey, other artists are trying to do just that. After visiting New York City earlier this year, local musicians Xanthe Alexis and Jonathan Gabriel came home with the goal of bringing the spirit of that music scene to Colorado Springs.
"What we saw in New York was that the bands are all connected to each other," Alexis says. "They go see each other, support each other, plan shows together. When I came back, that was my motivation."
In May, Alexis, a vocalist, and Gabriel, a guitarist, teamed up with acoustic bassist Melissa Jones and drummer David Cannava to form Posis, an original indie jazz band. The foursome has made it a priority to communicate with other musicians. Alexis, who also acts as the band's manager, uses the Internet, especially Myspace, to reach out. What she's found is encouraging.
"It's been so eye-opening," she says. "The Internet has connected me with other original music in town. It's amazing and passionate, and there's a ton of it."
"... you've got to rearrange.'
Posis began attempting to foster its own New York City-style community in Colorado Springs by booking shared bills with groups like Brochey's and by going to as many local gigs as possible.
"There was a feeling of scarcity and maybe a feeling of competitiveness," Gabriel says. "But, now, the bands are actually loving and supporting each other. The fans are able to go to a show and see two or three bands that are really good, and there's not any kind of awkwardness."
Alexis says it's all about taking pride in where you live.
"People tend to say Colorado Springs just isn't cool," she says. "It's time to change the belief that Colorado Springs isn't an artistic place. We're here. And there's lots of us."
For groups like Julia and the Unexpecteds and Posis, which don't consider themselves "normal," booking downtown venues like The Thirsty Parrot or the Ritz Grill can present a challenge.
"When you have a style that does not exactly fall into a category, you get apprehensive venue owners even when you draw a crowd," Brochey says.
She thinks if her band played a few dozen more covers or stuck to a mainstream bluesy or rock sound, it wouldn't have nearly as much trouble as it does in booking a downtown venue. But Brochey wants to put on a show, and to her, that means dressing wacky, painting her body and playing original music.
"How amazing would it be if every bar downtown had one night a week when unique, original artists were showcased?" Brochey asks. "I don't mean open mics I mean shows."
Alexis agrees: "To keep ourselves creatively innocent, we're not going to play at venues we don't fit in at. We want to be as weird as we want to be. We become insubordinate if we can't do that."