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Economy & Economic Development  January 14, 2011

Grant adds music promoter to resume

FORT COLLINS – For years, Dani Grant and her husband, Matt Hoeven, have been demonstrating their love of local music by spotlighting bands at their Chipper’s Lanes bowling alley on North College Avenue.

About five years ago, Grant and Hoeven put up a stage over a couple of lanes where the music could be performed while people continued to bowl. Grant said the live music-and-bowling idea caught on.

“You can literally bowl right under the band, which makes some of the bands a little nervous,” she said with a laugh. “If you bowl a strike, you can get your (song) request played.”

Grant recently raised her music-promoting profile through the purchase of the Mishawaka Amphitheatre, a rustic music-and-restaurant venue about 20 miles up Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins. Grant and Hoeven bought the business from former owner, Robin Jones, in December.

Grant said the offer to buy “The Mish”  came out of the blue last summer.

“Robin approached me in June at Mishawaka when we were partnering with the Mish on some shows,” she said. “He said, kind of off-the-cuff, ‘What would you think about buying this place?'”

Grant said Jones called her in July and made it clear his offer was serious. “That’s when we really started talking about it,” she said.

Later that summer, Jones was arrested after a marijuana-growing operation was discovered on the Mishawaka property. Grant said because The Mish wasn’t majority-owned by Jones, the property wasn’t seized under federal drug laws.

“It turned out really well,” she said. “I’m working with Robin on a daily basis.”

A major cleaning and some renovation is now under way at Mishawaka, which over the last 20-plus years has hosted the likes of Los Lobos, 10,000 Maniacs, Joan Baez and other well-known artists.

Grant said the goal for the revamped Mish now is to get it ready for a “private coming-out party” in April, with live shows beginning the end of May with a three-night bluegrass festival.

Grant said she plans to stay true to the musical spirit that’s always pervaded the mountain music venue – which sits right next to the cascading Poudre River – but that the “negativity” that also sometimes surrounded the venue would be gone.

She said she visited with neighbors to hear their feelings about seeing The Mish continue under new ownership and management.

“I wondered what the community would feel about the music continuing as it has, and what they don’t want is the negativity,” she said, referring to alcohol-and-drug-fueled incidents spoiling the natural beauty of the venue. “They want a clean, positive environment where they can bring their kids and be proud of it, and that’s exactly what I want.”

Grant said she wants to expand what is offered at The Mish, including opening it for weddings, recitals, plays, corporate retreats and other gatherings. She said that may turn off some of the more hard-core partiers who used to frequent the venue, but that’s fine with her.

“It’s not about the drugs,” she said. “It needs to get back to the music. We’ll lose a small percentage of customers, but that’s OK because we’re going to offset that with new people.”

SpokesBuzz kicks into second year

While rebirth of The Mish is holding much of her attention right now, Grant is also working to promote SpokesBuzz, a nonprofit organization recently launched to raise the profile of Northern Colorado musicians and bands and bring additional economic activity to Fort Collins.

Grant said through her bookings of bands at Chipper’s she gradually became aware of a truly vibrant local music scene. But the bands needed help to get noticed and actually make some money doing what they loved, she said.

“I’ve seen how hard these bands work and how little business acumen they possess,” she said. “That’s where SpokesBuzz comes in. Let’s create an incubator for these really incredible musicians.”

Last year, Grant helped six local bands go to the South-by-Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, an industry showcase event. One of the local bands – Candy Claws – was signed – and made No. 10 on NPR’s All Songs Considered Top 10 Albums of 2010. That inspired her to help raise money to send 10 bands back to the festival in March 2011.

This year’s SXSW will be held March 16-20, and Grant has arranged for the Northern Colorado bands to have their own venue for an all-day event on March 18 at the 512 bar in Austin. “The bands are paying their own way to be there,” she said. “The funds we’re raising are for marketing and production.”

If the Austin gigs are successful, Grant envisions taking Northern Colorado bands to other national venues in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.

Grant said SpokesBuzz is a partnership with Beet Street, the city of Fort Collins, New Belgium Brewery and A-Train Marketing. “It’s a promotions engine, that’s what it is,” she said.

Ryan Keiffer, Beet Street director, said SpokesBuzz and Beet Street have the same goal – to highlight the arts in Fort Collins and increase economic activity. Last year’s SXSW festival attracted 16,000 people and brought an estimated $79 million into Austin.

“Our missions are really well aligned,” Keiffer said. “She’s bringing Fort Collins music to a national audience and that’s an incredible complement to what we’re both trying to do.”

Brian Simpson, media relations director for New Belgium, said Grant’s enthusiasm made it easy for the brewery to become a partner in SpokesBuzz. “She’s an excellent, savvy networker who’s able to bring people together,” he said. “Whenever we get an opportunity to give to the local arts community, we like to do that, so it was an easy thing to get behind.”

Grant said her love for music is deep, going back to singing in an all-girl group in middle school. She said a chance to sing professionally years later went away when “I choked,” leaving her sitting on the musical sidelines.

“I’m a behind-the-scenes person,” she said, adding with a laugh: “Maybe I could be a backup singer if I’m lucky.”

Grant, a Philadelphia native, said her late father shared some advice shortly before he died that gave her the courage to do what she loves.

“He started pushing me,” she said. “He said ‘life is short – go do what you think you need to do. Just go do it, enjoy it, and make something happen.'”

FORT COLLINS – For years, Dani Grant and her husband, Matt Hoeven, have been demonstrating their love of local music by spotlighting bands at their Chipper’s Lanes bowling alley on North College Avenue.

About five years ago, Grant and Hoeven put up a stage over a couple of lanes where the music could be performed while people continued to bowl. Grant said the live music-and-bowling idea caught on.

“You can literally bowl right under the band, which makes some of the bands a little nervous,” she said with a laugh. “If you bowl a strike, you can get your…

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