This post originally appeared on the Longmont Compass on November 21, 2014 and is solely for portfolio purposes.
A Craft Community: Local Music with The Prairie Scholars
Longmont is a town with its eye on music. We have more than twenty venues in town that host live music, six independent music stores downtown, and this many live music events every month. It hasn’t always been like this. Andy Eppler of The Prairie Scholars recalls, “When we moved to town it was maybe Left Hand, Oskars, and The Eagle Grill. Those were the gigs for bands.” But Andy and Jessica, his wife and the other half of The Prairie Scholars, have been an integral part of the growing music community in Longmont.
The duo hails from Texas. “I was touring up here for several weeks in 2007, and I kinda fell in love with the area. I tricked Jess into coming up with me a couple more times,” recalls Andy. At the time, Jess was performing with another band, and Andy was a solo act. The two formed The Prairie Scholars in 2009 when they made the move to Longmont. “You gotta love the place you’re in. We chose here, so that’s where our energies are going,” explained Jessica. The musicians focused their energies on Longmont’s music.
Since 2009, that scene has boomed. According to Andy, “What’s changed is the mentality. Now the venues have seen that you can make money with music, and it’s sustainable.”
“There have always been songwriters, but now it seems that everyone is really proud to come out and show their work, ’cause a lot of times people want cover bands, they think that’s what the audience will want, but Longmont… it’s kinda taking on that culture of the local craft brews, now we’re starting to see that with the music,” explains Jessica. “It’s a craft community.”
This change wasn’t immediate, it was a slow progression over time that many local musicians credit The Prairie Scholars with jump-starting. Andy sees it in a different light, “I wouldn’t say we’re leaders as much as opportunity makers. We want to provide opportunities for people because it helps our business, too, to create a marketplace. It helps us to help venues understand that local music makes money.”
The Prairie Scholars say they have a few ideas to continue making opportunities for musicians next year. “One of the things we’re trying to do is going to be event-oriented. We don’t think that the city does a good job of showcasing local talent, and so we’re just gonna take it upon ourselves.” In the past many city events have featured musicians from out-of-town. Andy reasons, “If we invest in the artists that are really playing in town, show them to the whole city, they’ll get fans, and those fans will follow them around town, spending their money in town. It’s like, what the f*** are they thinking? Put Denny Driscoll or Nick O’Connor up there to open!”
This weekend The Prairie Scholars are performing with two other local acts in Longmont Live. They will join Nick O’Connor, another local musician, and Bella Musser, a 16 year old singer-songwriter. “We did another Longmont Live with her [Musser] earlier this year, and with Foxfeather, and I think this next one is gonna be a rad show. The Longmont Council for the Arts booked us one at a time.”
Longmont Live groups well-established bands and musicians with less-established artists on stage. The three acts play individual sets, and end the night with a finale that brings all of the acts together. “We inked-in their date immediately when they approached us, it’s a good community-building event,” says Andy.
Update: Unfortunately this weekend’s Longmont Live was cancelled.
“We wouldn’t be successful if the city wasn’t with us,” explains Andy, “We want to be known for helping people in ways that no one ever helped us before.”
The Prairie Scholars are currently working on a double album, and will be taking a short break from shows in December. They will host two open-mics and play their monthly show at a Main St. venue, but other shows will be slim pickings. One of the few shows will be the LeftHand Label Art Show with the LeftHand Artist Group, and will feature some of Andy’s paintings. Andy also released a book New Reason New Way: How My Skepticism Changed My Art in September, an Art Philosophy book discussing what happens to the creative process when its origins are questioned.
Photo courtesy of Scott Mann