Montrose music festivals stir controversy

The Grand Junction-based group Jack and Jill perform at Cerise Park on Saturday during the Montrose Music Festival.

Dozens of Montrose residents crowded Canyon Creek Bed and Breakfast in Montrose on Saturday during the We Love You Montrose Musicians Day festival.

MONTROSE — The annual Montrose Music Festival is a much anticipated, nationally recognized event, celebrating music and bringing together local citizens — in Montrose, Scotland, that is.

On the Western Slope, the same can not be said, yet, but organizers from Grand Junction and Montrose city groups hope the first Montrose Music Festival will lead to a second. But next time they’d like it to be minus the controversy the first one stirred up.

On Saturday, four bands from Grand Junction made the 60-mile trip south to play in front of a sporadic crowd cooking under a hot sun with hopes of raising money for an amphitheater to be built in Cerise Park. The lineup was four groups set to play from noon to 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, along Main Street, the We Love You Montrose Musicians Day was taking place, with people sitting in padded chairs listening to local talent under trees behind the Canyon Creek Bed and Breakfast.

The two festivals in one town on the same day were not the original intent of parties to either gathering Saturday, but when it appeared the festival wasn’t going to feature local musicians, a faction emerged, and it planned to involve local talent.

“I saw a poster for the (Montrose Music) festival, and it had no bands from Montrose listed,” said Montrose promoter Dave Bowman.

Musicians from Montrose feel they were excluded from a festival bearing the name of their hometown, Bowman said. Promoters from Grand Junction say that wasn’t intentional.

“The first mistake was picking a name that wasn’t Internet-friendly,” Bowman said, referring to the festival’s name being the same as the established festival in Scotland.

“We didn’t set out to make any of the Montrose musicians upset,” said Kevin Wodlinger of Cumulus Media Inc. of Grand Junction.

Cumulus and Montrose city organizers last fall got together with hopes of creating a music festival in Montrose. The festival nearly died in the process, and Wodlinger sought the help of Jerry Schaeffer, a Grand Junction musician, for help in booking the bands.

“This was put together at the last minute,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer said he contacted a “few” Montrose bands telling them the show was a benefit concert and none of the bands playing would be paid.

“Unfortunately, none of the them were interested,” Schaeffer said.

Bowman and a few other Montrose musicians say they were never contacted and dispute the notion the concert was unpaid.

So, Bowman and 15 other bands and solo performers created their own festival to be held in venues across the town, ranging from restaurants to a local brewery. All events were free to the public, but musicians playing the event were to be compensated for their time.

“We asked ourselves: What would Willie (Nelson) do?” said Bowman, “Willie would have his own show.”

Schaeffer, a member of the Goodman Band, one of the acts playing Saturday in the Montrose Music Festival, said his band was not being paid to play.

With an admission price of $10, The Montrose Music Festival initially was supposed to benefit the newly formed Association of Commerce and Tourism, which promotes Montrose businesses.

But the beneficiary was changed, with proceeds to go toward a new outdoor performing arts center in Cerise Park. Schaeffer and Bowman agree the venue could host large national acts and bring thousands of paying patrons out to see them.

“We know what we’re doing. It’s not a problem working together. There are resources here,” Montrose musician Donny Morales said.

“We don’t want to butt heads. We want to work together,” Schaeffer added.

Differences aside, everybody involved in the two music festivals agreed there was a communication breakdown, something that needs to be fixed before the city hosts its next summer music festival.


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