2012 Articles

by Tim Van Schmidt

Madonna, Super Bowl broadcast, February 5, 2012.

I don’t get it. When I saw Madonna perform on the Live Earth broadcast a few years ago, I thought she was great- playing right into the camera, surrounded by gyrating dancers and those wild guys from Gogol Bordello.

Shortly thereafter, I got to see Madonna’s first ever appearance in Denver and despite all the stage action, I felt the performer was cold- going through the motions.

But last night Madonna was great again as the halftime entertainer for the Super Bowl. There was a lot going on, of course, but the cameras also seemed to be picking up something I couldn’t see when I saw Madonna live- fun. It appeared to me Madonna was having a great time at the Super Bowl, even while keeping up with the precision choreography.

Maybe it’s all about the television cameras- even a top shelf performer like Madonna can put on an excited face when millions of people are watching from a distance.

At the Super Bowl, Madonna made a grand entrance- dressed in some big gear fit for a 21st Century queen of pop and pulled to the center of the field by legions of beefy gladiators. From there, the action never let up as lights flashed, the stage filled with athletic dancers- including a tight rope acrobat- and a large part of the field was turned into a video screen.

In her short set, Madonna was then joined by a drum corps then an enormous choir. Performers were doing back flips and various  eyepopping moves. Even Madonna did some physical work while remaining at the center of this glittering spectacle.

But what I liked the most about the whole thing was seeing Madonna put a little expression in her face- was she even smiling at times? There was also a little hop in her step as she moved around the stage. This was the biggest stage in entertainment and it was good to see even a big star get taken away just a little bit by the rush of the moment.

FOCOMX is coming!!

Go ahead and take a look at the two-day schedule for next weekend’s FOCOMX music festival. FOCOMX, coming to the city on April 13 and 14, is the Fort Collins Music Experiment, organized by the Fort Collins Musicians Association, and if you are at all interested in regional music, this is an opportunity not to be missed. That is, FOCOMX 2012 boasts some 320 performers in not only the usual music venues in Fort Collins, but some unusual ones too.

The effort- a big one that has seen the festival grow from just over a hundred bands to 320 in just a few short years- brings together a wide variety of talent and musical genres, all presented by our friends and neighbors and fellow Coloradans.

Now, that may sound like a nice, cozy, neighborly event, but don’t go to FOCOMX with charity in your heart. Go because you can see top notch performances, innovative songwriting and cool instruments everywhere you might want to go in Fort Collins on those two nights. FOCOMX takes away the celebrity cult, which says you have to be rich and famous to impress audiences, and what you have left is a tremendous amount of really great music, served right up in your face.

But don’t take my word for it- go ahead and check out the FOCOMX schedule and see if don’t recognize some of the names of local favorites. But more, see how many names you DON’T recognize- and get out there and see what the buzz is. That’s one reason it’s all called an “experiment”- this is an opportunity to try things out that are not familiar.

Bands I’m looking forward to checking out next weekend thanks to FOCOMX: Blendercats, Zaro, Love Dollz, Tuatha, Faded Freakshow, Nautical Mile, Jonathan Tiersten, Mosey West, Dead Floyd and Fierce Bad Rabbit. That barely scratches the surface!!

Experience Hendrix 2012 Tribute Tour, Paramount Theater, Denver, March 31, 2012.

Last night, I couldn’t get to sleep- even after the tedious late night drive back to Fort Collins from Denver. I was wired. Electrically wired, that is. In the course of an evening spent with a stellar cast of players at the Paramount in Denver for the last show of the Experience Hendrix 2012 Tribute Tour, I got plugged in, turned on and pleasantly pummeled by nonstop guitar- rough and ready, screeching, howling, blasting, electric guitar.

There’s no better guitar icon than Jimi Hendrix to hang something like this on. That is, for just a couple of weeks each year, a whole bunch of some of the most exciting guitarists in the country get together to tour and jam with Hendrix music. I can see why big shots like Eric Johnson, Taj Mahal and Kenny Wayne Shepherd want to do this- it’s a chance to really just open things up and wail. Anybody who has ever played electric guitar pretty much has tried to learn some Hendrix stuff at one time or another- or wished they could- so there’s plenty for all these guys to relate to. And since it isn’t about anyone else’s music other than Hendrix’s, the personal ego stuff can just drop away and everyone can get down to business having fun recalling Hendrix’s musical spirit.

The ringleader for the musical mayhem on stage is old Hendrix friend and band mate bassist Billy Cox. Cox was treated like the next best thing to Hendrix himself in this situation- a direct connection to the music- and he played plenty, concentrating on the music he made with Hendrix in the Band of Gypsys. But with all these guys in the line-up in Denver- including Johnson, Mahal, Shepherd, Doyle Bramhall II, Brad Whitford, Dweezil Zappa, Robert Randolph, Mato Nanji and the Slide Brothers- Cox didn’t have to worry about over staying his warm welcome.

As each guitarist took the stage, they each dug into various Hendrix nuggets- including “Manic Depression,” “Angel,” “Purple Haze,” “Voodoo Chile,” “Foxy Lady,” “Are You Experienced?,” “Hey Joe,” “Stone Free,” “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll,)” “Power of Soul” and much more. While everybody put out- each little mini set was unhurried and offered plenty of opportunity to play- the one guy on stage who worked the entire evening was drummer Chris Layton. Layton was a solid anchor throughout an evening that reached to the roof with electric ambition.

What were the highlights- you mean stuff like Johnson and Zappa trading licks, Mahal and Randolph jamming together, Randolph and the Slide Brothers blending three slide guitars together at once, or just seeing “Machine Gun” live? There weren’t many slow moments at all and the production moved fairly smoothly through a long, generous chunk of music. So, just about everything worked fine. It was just a feast of electricity from start to finish, which may mess with your sleep afterwards, but for a guitar fan it was worth it.

Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, May 1, 2012.

When the Black Keys took the stage for an encore at the end of a two-day run at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, they employed the power of two huge mirror balls to make the arena a sparkling wonderland. Meanwhile, the electric thunderstorm of their music slowly built to an emotional climax.

The mirror ball trick was just one of the staging effects that helped make the Black Keys look really big in Broomfield. They had the big screens behind them, flashing wild, colorful designs and two-story high images of the Keys at work. They had plenty of flashing lights, plus laser beams cutting across the arena. Added to this, they had a sound level that worked on blowing the back end off of the arena.

The “emotional climax” of the set in Broomfield is the result of a maturing of the Black Keys’ sound. Their newer music has shed some of the grit and replaced it with a new sense of melody and a thicker mix of instruments. The ambition of the music, fleshed out live with several extra players, fits well with the big production values of the current show.

But when it came right down to just the two guys playing, Dan Auerbach on guitar and Patrick Carney on drums don’t need the extra visuals to stir up something big. During their mid-set segment sans the help, the Black Keys just dug in and raged together. There was a significant confidence in what they were doing- bashing revved up blues rock right into the stratosphere- and the snarling, fitful restlessness of their music became more powerful than the artificial enhancements, showing how they had gotten to the big time in the first place.

The evening got started right with a high-spirited performance by the Arctic Monkeys. There wasn’t a dull moment throughout their generous set with plenty of stage movement, British punk attitude and lots of strobe lighting. Their music had ambitions too, dramatic breaks occurring in the music along with relatively challenging chord sequences. But above all, the Arctic Monkeys put out just a little bit of rock and roll chaos, which, of course, helped keep the crowd jammed together in front of the stage engaged.

This was my first time at the1st Bank Center and I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to go back. While its location in Broomfield near 144th makes it a more accessible venue than most of the Denver sheds, the building is surrounded by an odd assortment of other buildings and the parking system is terrible. The shows have been plentiful at this place, but there is no easy in, easy out option- you can’t be in a hurry when the show is over here.

The arena itself was good sized, but boasted nothing about it that was particularly distinctive. But I will praise the eager helpfulness of the beer guy we met out in the hall. He helped us figure out the place more than any other 1st Bank person.

Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour, Red Rocks, Morrison, July 9, 2012.

When mentioning the Beach Boys, one of the first things that comes to mind is thick, layered vocal harmonies. Those were plentiful last night at Red Rocks when three founding members plus two early co-horts were joined by nine more musicians to churn up a big chunk of Beach Boys history. But for all those harmonies are worth, the thing that worked best for the full house of Beach Boys fans at Red Rocks were those tunes you could get up, wiggle around some and shout out the lyrics to. That’s right- you didn’t need to harmonize, just exclaim “Help me Rhonda!” and “Ba-ba-ba-ba-barbara-ann!” for all you’re worth for some decidedly artless fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated the vocal work even if I wasn’t really sure of who was singing or not. There was Mike Love, Al Jardin, Bruce Johnston and David Marks- even Brian Wilson himself- all adding something, but with a platoon of musicians backing them on instruments and vocals, I’m not sure their skills were being put to use as much as their participation was necessary to make this anniversary gala tour a hit.

Where it all comes together- the tsunami of vocal harmonies, the shoutable refrain and a butt shaking tempo- is “Good Vibrations” and it was glorious hearing the group blast their upbeat masterpiece up the Rocks. The other high points in the show predictably read like a greatest hits list- “I Get Around,” “Surfin USA,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Fun Fun Fun,” “Little Deuce Coupe”- all crowd-rousers.

But versions of tunes like “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It be Nice,” “Heroes and Villains,” “Sail On Sailor” as well as some respectable new stuff (“That’s Why God Made the Radio” and “Isn’t It Time”) straddled the line between sock hop and artifice.

Where it got kind of fuzzy was in a selection of covers, including Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” and the Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” The most curious of these was a countrified version of “Cottonfields”- a traditional tune completely out of place in a Beach Boys concert. However, the cover material was received well in the crowd- as long as it was something to move to.

It did appear that the Beach Boys were having a pretty good time at Red Rocks. The fellows sent out quite a few shout outs to family and friends in the audience as well as seemed to be bending over backwards to acknowledge each other on stage. The guys had to mention the beauty of the venue- who doesn’t that gets to play at Red Rocks?- and while some reviews kind of characterize Brian Wilson’s stage presence as being subdued, I had the impression this was a pretty good gig for him. He sang a lot- one featured slot was the song “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”- and playfully directed the songs with a wave of his hands.

I can’t say the Beach Boys’ show was gold from beginning to end- there were a few low spots especially in the first half- but I wouldn’t want to have missed the good times so many of the Beach Boys’ hits insist upon. It must be gratifying to the Beach Boys that even after 50 years, their music still makes a whole bunch of people get up and shout.

President Barack Obama, Grassroots Event, Monfort Quad, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, August 28, 2012.

Yesterday, I had meetings with two Very Important People. The second of these VI people was the President of the United States- Barack Obama. Obama was in Fort Collins, and especially at Colorado State University, for a 2012 “grassroots” election campaign stop. The first of these VI people was my mother. I took her to the doctor yesterday.

These two things may seem unconnected, but they really aren’t, especially in light of the President’s remarks to a reported 13,000 supporters. Obama spoke of his healthcare plan, crafted to make health insurance available to all Americans. He also spoke about his policies for making higher education available to more young people and talked about bringing soldiers home from debilitating conflicts.

To me, what the President’s comments boiled down to is the complicated task of helping people. That seems to be the major ideological difference between the Democrats and the Republicans- just how much the government should help people.

Yesterday, I helped my elderly mother get to the doctor. It was a mundane activity- my mother has diabetes and she regularly goes to a doctor for foot care- not a special situation in the least. But to me, it is an important thing to do because my mother needs help and I think I’m the best one for the job.

Still, no matter how good I am at my job of helping my mother, there may eventually be a limit to how much I can do as an individual. At that time, the decisions my elected officials have made will become very important.

At the Monfort Quad at CSU, I heard a lot of what I wanted to hear about helping people from President Obama. And for my mother’s sake, I want to believe that this guy is sincerely working on it.

Obama did admit that “it’s easy to be cynical about politics,” which he said with a slight grin, followed by a kind of amused pause. This little pause said it all about the difference between the Barack Obama on stage at CSU in 2012 and the one that triumphantly filled the CSU Oval in 2008, just days before being elected President.

In 2008, Obama was at the top of his game as a surging candidate with fresh, unstoppable energy. His speech was upbeat, the crowd was the largest in CSU history and the atmosphere was electric.

In 2012, Obama is a seasoned President and has plenty of “war wounds” to show for his efforts. He’s no longer outlining plans- they are already in motion. In 2012, Obama offers a weathered experience and the atmosphere at the Monfort Quad was much more low key. While the shine, however, has worn off since 2008, the substance is basically the same in 2012 and that’s what made listeners at CSU cheer as Obama ticked off the stuff he’s doing and the stuff he stills wants to accomplish.

What was the also the same about both the 2008 and 2012 events was the warm delivery Obama commands. In the university setting, he seemed like the popular, hip professor, who knows enough to call out to the CSU Rams and refer to CSU’s big game against CU. But there was a reason for that- Obama’s camp has set up their own “Rocky Mountain Rumble,” challenging the schools in Fort Collins and Boulder to see which one can register the most voters.

Obama was also hip enough to mention the beauty of the campus. In 2008, Obama came in October and the Oval was strikingly beautiful with fall colors. The President quipped “It was so beautiful, I wanted to stay, but as usual I had other things I had to do.”

The Monfort Quad was a relatively intimate venue for the speech. With screen towers, lights and various risers, the scene looked a little like a rock concert and the crowd waited amiably, some for many hours, for the President’s appearance.

The wait was aided by a succession of speakers that began with an invocation by Pastor Connie Winter-Eulberg, followed by a perky address by Becca Siegel, a Field Director for Obama For America in Colorado. Then things got ramped up with brief remarks by Representative Jared Polis, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and then “The Honorable” Ken Salazar.

Salazar was especially animated as a speaker. This was in stark contrast to an event I covered in 2004. Salazar was running for the Senate and made a campaign stop in Fort Collins, appearing with local political hopefuls in Old Town Square. But as I remember Salazar didn’t speak as much as his special guest for the event: Robert Redford.

But Salazar didn’t need any help in 2012. At CSU, he was a demonstrative, outgoing speaker, punctuating his remarks often with finger pointing and arm waving, his distinctive cowboy hat bobbing with the progress of the speech.

Introducing the President himself was CSU student Haley Damm-Hamblin.

The day before Obama’s visit in Fort Collins, I attended a press conference at the CSU office of Obama For America that was intended as a local welcome to the President. State Representative Randy Fischer, State Representative John Kefalas, District 3 County Commissioner candidate Karen Stockley and CSU student AJ Foltz all made brief statements welcoming President Obama, while tacking on comments about higher education issues, a strong theme in Obama’s address at CSU.

The press conference itself seemed somewhat perfunctory, but what made it all worthwhile was having a little time before the conference to briefly catch up with Kefalas. I have been acquainted with him since first moving to Fort Collins in 1980 and joining the Fort Collins Food Co-op, where we were both members. It has been heartening to watch Kefalas’ political career continue to unfold over the years and to see that a man who was so committed to the idea that we must help one another is still at it.

As we talked, Kefalas tried summing up the meaning of all his efforts- and those of others: “It’s all about trying to make our community better, isn’t it?”

That’s exactly what I want a Colorado State Representative- who is running for the State Senate seat in District 14- to say. That’s exactly what I want a President to say. And on that score, Obama delivered the next day.

Right now, I can handle taking care of my own mother. But there may come a time when that may not be possible. That becomes the point where investing in a government that offers avenues of assistance becomes real important to me. That’s why both my mother and Obama are Very Important People. The President can help create an environment of support. My mother is the reason.

Paul Ryan, Victory Town Hall, Walker Manufacturing, Timnath, September 26, 2012.

Now I’ve been on both sides of the aisle this election season. On August 28, I was able to cover President Obama’s visit to CSU. Yesterday, I was able to cover Republican Vice President candidate Paul Ryan’s campaign stop in little Timnath, just across the Interstate from Fort Collins. I went to the event simply as a citizen, because after hearing the President’s side of things, I thought it was worth the effort to hear the other side- directly from one of the main players. To their credit, the Romney-Ryan campaign accepted me as a walk-up Press member and granted me access to the media risers.

What I’ve discovered is that no one is completely wrong. There were points in Ryan’s presentation- and in the Town Hall style question and answer period at the end of the appearance- that rang true. There most certainly is government waste. You could also rightly say that the government does interfere with things better left to the people. It is also true that politicians say things they cannot come through with later on.

Yes, the economy is a scary mess- apparently everybody agrees we’re teetering on the edge of disaster. Yes, people who work hard for their money should be able to keep it. Yes, it is a very delicate situation letting the government get involved in health care. I also do not like the idea of people sucking up welfare while I keep paying taxes. The national deficit is huge, it’s not good getting in bed with the Chinese and other foreign investors, and there is truly a sense that the United States is not on track.

All of these were points raised by Ryan during his appearance in Timnath. But I think Obama would have to see the truth in all of that too.

Since Ryan and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney are the ones on the offensive, they must blame the failures of the government on Obama- and there was plenty of that at the Ryan event. But I’m not sure it’s Obama’s fault as much as the entire government’s fault. To his credit, Ryan did admit that Obama’s administration did inherit a bad mess, saying that both parties were “culpable.” However, it seems that since Obama’s on duty, it’s his turn to take the heat.

That’s the part I didn’t like about Ryan’s talk- the tone of indignation and reliance on the blame game to make important points- aided by graphs and charts on the video screen. But that seemed to fit with the audience- I heard some of the same indignation in the voices of people from the crowd who asked Ryan questions- saying President Obama’s name with apparent disgust.

The other part I didn’t like in the speech was the promise to dismantle the programs set up under Obama’s administration- first thing. If this occurs, I will bet it will be Mitt Romney begging for four more years in 2016 because he didn’t have enough time to get the rest of the job done. The country just doesn’t have time for another period of tearing down and rebuilding and the kind of leaders we need have to be people who recognize that.

All that said, I found Ryan to be a very capable speaker. He’s calm, even and sounds like a smart guy. That’s good- he has to be a smart guy to be part of a team that will take on the most complicated job in the world. I was impressed by Ryan personally and was glad to hear him speak.

I was also impressed with the host venue- Walker Manufacturing. The Ryan event was held in the company’s huge warehouse/manufacturing space. The company makes mowers and farm equipment and provided an appropriate setting for Ryan’s appearance- a thriving American business with its roots in the agriculture industry. The results of hard work were all around the several thousand people who attended the event- and the staging area and audience areas only took up a small portion of the entire facility.

At first I thought this location for Ryan’s visit to Northern Colorado was kind of a stretch- why not do it at a more public venue like the Ranch? However, I think the scene of active industry amplified Ryan’s message.

Peter Gabriel, Red Rocks, Morrison, September 30, 2012.

Characteristically, Peter Gabriel started out his set last night at Red Rocks unlike most contemporary performers- by playing an unfinished song. Gabriel admitted that the opening piece didn’t even have lyrics yet and that seemed so- as he and longtime bassist Tony Levin played the tune, Gabriel vocally worked around the melody suggested by the chords without really breaking into actual words. It sounded just like a Peter Gabriel song- his distinctive writing style reflected in the rise and fall of his piano work- but the whole thing just hasn’t completely gelled.

This was the first stage in an evening that Gabriel explained was loosely based on “process.” He told the crowd the concert would be divided into sections, starting with the very beginning of songwriting- the unfinished song- then acoustic versions of songs, then full-on electric stuff.

The evening’s “dessert,” as he put it, was a full reading of his landmark “So” album. But of course, Gabriel had to tinker with the idea- the “So” material was to be played as it was originally intended to be presented. For the “nerds” in the crowd, he explained that in the old days of making records for vinyl- which he insisted sounded great- apparently the closer to the center of the record the grooves got, the less power the bass parts had. The song “In Your Eyes” was meant to be the final song of the sequence, but it was moved elsewhere on the album to preserve the quality of the bass sound.

With all that said, then, Gabriel and band- including Levin, David Sancious on keyboards, David Rhodes on guitar and Manu Katche on drums- set to work “processing” another big chunk of rich, textured music.

Texture, for example is what came out of Gabriel’s “acoustic” version of “Shock the Monkey.” It didn’t have the sharp kick of the old recording, but rather a more delicate precision.

But let’s get real, Gabriel’s music does not stay “acoustic” for long and the division between the stages of the “process” just kind of melted away. Besides, I think one of the themes of this tour is “give the people what they want.” And that meant trotting out “Sledgehammer”- which had the crowd up on its feet, bumping along to a decidedly odd kind of pop hit. Let’s also throw in “Solsbury Hill” in that category.

I got something I didn’t really know I wanted last night. That is, a riveting version of “Family Snapshot.” It’s an intense meditation on what’s going on in the mind of a political assassin and Gabriel’s voice has always given this character a fragile intensity. It was no different last night.

I also enjoyed hearing “No Self Control,” another song dedicated to an abnormal personal perspective. But my very favorite of the evening was “Mercy Street”- it’s a beautiful, soothing song, miles away from the louder stuff, and sounded great in the Red Rocks environment.

Added to this was, of course, was the joyful buoyancy of “In Your Eyes,” which was indeed a great closer for the “So” material. “Biko” ended the evening on a more serious note, but inspirational nonetheless.

Opening the show was Jennie Abrahamson, a singer-songwriter with a Pixie-like voice, along with cellist and vocalist Linnea Olsson. The pair also joined Gabriel and band on stage for their set.

It’s worth remarking that even though the stage tricks are kind of at a minimum for Gabriel on this tour, the production makes the most out of banks of flashing lights and interesting video work. The usual Red Rocks video screens were aided by huge banner-like screens behind the band, which displayed artfully “processed” images of the action.

When Gabriel was doing his explaining at the beginning of the show, he took a moment then to comment on the picturesque quality of Red Rocks. He called it “one of the most beautiful venues in the world.” Now, everybody says that, but for some reason, last night, I was impressed. Some people can talk hyperbole easily, but Gabriel literally has performed all over the world and I love to think he meant it.

Last night was the last show of the season at Red Rocks for 2012. The sold-out crowd not only was treated to some fine musical “processing,” but it was a beautiful Autumn night. There was a chill, a breeze and even a light rain at the very end, but also a huge moon plowing through scattered clouds all evening. The “show”- Gabriel, the Rocks and the Colorado night sky- was quintessential Red Rocks, a great way to end the season.

Vice President Joe Biden, Grassroots Event, Island Grove Exhibition Hall, Greeley, October 17, 2012.

There was one moment in the Grassroots Event featuring Vice President Joe Biden in Greeley yesterday that stunned the audience for just a moment, and that moment wasn’t delivered by Biden.

Rather, it was delivered by longtime Greeley City Council member Chuck Archibeque. He stopped the room cold when he admitted, quite openly, that he was a registered Republican. There was just a half a second of silence, then a little grumble and the moment could have gone sour if Archibeque hadn’t followed up his bold statement with another one- that he was committed to voting for Barack Obama for President.

This one little shock- that a registered Republican had been given the mike in support of Obama- was the biggest surprise of the day.

It was no surprise that the room, filled with 1,100 supporters, was upbeat, after President Obama’s successful debate the previous night. This was underscored during brief remarks by Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Salazar not only lauded the President but also reminded the crowd of the Vice President’s decisive showing in his debate with Republican ticket rival Paul Ryan the previous week.

It was also no surprise that Vice President Biden was a powerful speaker. He was skillful at changing his tone and volume, his force of delivery and angle of perspective, bringing his speech to a crescendo several times. This was a friendly audience, for sure, and Biden brought them up, then took them down only to build them back up again. Biden was very agile in his presentation style- bringing local references together with personal references then tying them to national concerns and the election.

What he had to say was no surprise, either. He got the negative stuff out of the way first, mocking Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s performance in the debate. At one point, Biden just threw up his hands in apparent dismay at what he heard from Romney. It was a good moment of theater that illustrated the points Biden countered in topics that weaved around some of the hot debate points the previous night- including women’s issues, immigration policies and the now famous “sketchy” economic plan.

The heavy lifting of the event had been done earlier by Colorado Obama for America organizer Pricilla Resendiz. Resendiz lead an exercise in cell phone use for making donations and pleaded for not only increased dedication by volunteers in the final weeks of the campaign, but calls for more volunteers to step up.

Biden echoed some of this later- and encouraged people to vote early- but it was his job to touch the emotions and he accomplished that in Greeley. The crowd cheered heartily at multiple times during the event- and not just for Biden, but also for Salazar, Bennet and really just about everyone, including Archibeque, the registered Republican.

Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez also took the podium yesterday in Greeley and energetically provided some eyewitness accounts of working in the legislature in Massachusetts during Romney’s tenure as Governor. His out-of-town perspective added weight to the claim that Romney has changed his style but not his basic beliefs.

The honor of introducing Biden to the audience was given to Greeley native and Obama for America volunteer Rhonda Solis. Solis brought the proceedings back full circle to local politics- and a personal account of how “Obamacare” has helped her own son.

This was a neat, clean political event. Even waiting for the Vice President to show up was upbeat thanks to an opening set of music by mother-daughter duo The Hamling Girls.

With only 20 days left until the election, the message may have become very familiar, but the need to inspire and ignite volunteers and campaign workers remains a top priority. To that end, Biden’s visit to Greeley was right on. After ending his speech, he spent nearly as much time shaking hands and taking pictures with the crowd lining the podium area as he did outlining the big ideas at stake in the 2012 election.

President Barack Obama, Grassroots Event, Coors Event Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, November 1, 2012.

At one point during his election campaign event in Boulder yesterday, President Obama summed up his appeal for the votes of the already sympathetic crowd of 10,000 by telling them that “after four years, you know me.” He let the word “know” hang in the air just a little, like a person talking to an old friend might when using the “friendship card” as a means to convince. The statement was simply put, but apt after all the other rhetoric.

By now in the heated 2012 election campaign, the people should “know” the candidates and at the Coors Event Center on the CU campus in Boulder, Obama ticked off all of the familiar points about education, women’s issues and building the Middle Class that have become the bulk of his campaign platform.

Also, at this point in Obama’s Presidency, we should certainly “know” what he’s up to. I watched President Obama on the news just the day before, touring the devastation in New Jersey due to Hurricane Sandy- and receiving high praise from New Jersey Governor Christie. That’s this candidate’s day job and a sincere review of his abilities. In Boulder, Obama mentioned the disaster, but pretty much stuck to the script for the rest of the event.

I’m glad I got to see Obama again towards the end of the campaign.¬† On August 28 at CSU, he used his warm charm at key times, but was much more measured and careful. In Boulder last night, I would characterize him as “punchy.” Obama’s been slinging this campaign material long enough now that he can let loose a little bit, take some direct swings at challenger Mitt Romney and just outright solicit votes. Skillfully, Obama often worked the crowd into a climax of cheering, only to bring things back down to build it back up again.

Perhaps the voters are getting a little “punchy” too and it’s time to wrap this process up. The sense that I get from attending events and from what I can gather from conversations with fellow members of the press from different parts of the state is that Obama is going to be a winner. I think the President thinks so too and there was a kind swagger to Obama’s presence in Boulder that wasn’t there last August. Despite the grueling duties as President and candidate, he’s got a winner’s glow.

Also speaking in Boulder were Congressman Jared Polis, Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Mark Udall. Playing two opening sets of music, as the arena was filling up, was The Head and the Heart. Their artful acoustic-based music and dramatic vocal blend helped ease the long wait in the overheated arena.

There’s a Fort Collins note here: President Obama was introduced by Savannah Pullin, a perky CU student from Fort Collins.

2012 Election Wrap-up: A View from a Battleground State

Exhausted. That sums up my feelings after the 2012 Election. It’s kind of a pleasant exhaustion, but tiredness just the same.

I was so tired that I just didn’t hold on for President Obama’s victory speech on Tuesday night. After Mitt Romney’s graceful concession speech, I called it a night. The deal was done.

But thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch the entirety of Obama’s speech the next night- and it brought tears to my eyes. Those tears were about the incredible intensity of the election this time around- and it was a huge relief to see the thing wrap up in such a glorious way. Obama’s speech was excellent work, expressing a lot of what I want a newly re-elected President to say about working together after such a contentious political battle.

I was tired on Election Night because I happen to live in one of the handful of “battleground states” that made a bigger difference to the Presidential election this time around. This was confirmed on Election Night as every network I surfed for election coverage named Colorado as such. One network even went so far as to name my county- Larimer County- as one of the three “swing” counties in the state.

This resulted in a deluge of input from the outside. I didn’t have to travel very far at all to cover the national election in 2012, the national election came to me.

In all, I was able to cover two President Obama events- one in Fort Collins, with the largest crowd I saw of 13,000, and the other in Boulder, with a crowd of 10,000. I covered one event with Vice President Joe Biden in Greeley as well as an event with the Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, at the South Fort Collins Obama office.

Added to this was a local politics event prior to Obama’s visit to Fort Collins as well as four celebrity events for Obama- featuring musicians and actors- on the CSU campus and at the CSU Obama office.

I also covered a Paul Ryan event in Timnath- just on the border of Fort Collins. Ryan also skirted around Fort Collins by appearing in Greeley and, one the day before the election, at Johnson’s Corner in Johnstown.

These events, also featuring Senators, Representatives and high ranking officials from Colorado and elsewhere, mirror what was happening all around Colorado in the months prior to the election- multiple appearances by all of the major players and their famous supporters.

But the election rally events weren’t all there was to it. My telephone rang over and over again on a daily basis, for weeks and weeks, most often with messages from various branches of the Republican Party.

I received a constant barrage of e-mails- many daily- from the Obama campaign, using everything from friendliness to out-and-out guilt to solicit donations and support. Because I had covered a Paul Ryan event, I also received Republican e-mails, but I did not know until just days before the election that most of the Republican e-mails were being extracted by my spam catcher. My snail mail had negative Republican material just about every day for months- many times, the same flyers, sent over and over again.

On Election Day, right at 10 AM, I received a call from Mitt Romney who promised “I’m going to make sure we remain the hope of the Earth” along with his plea for my vote. On my noontime walk, I ran into an Obama volunteer rattling doors in the neighborhood to find any voters that were still hiding. At 5:30 in the afternoon, I received a link to an Obama video that didn’t say much more than get out and vote- or get someone else out to vote- multiple times.

I saw a lot of “road signs” along the highways in Northern Colorado over the last few months- and a lot of those tended to be for the Romney Ryan camp.

I noticed that yard signs in Fort Collins were a little more scarce than in past elections. Oftentimes, if there were yard signs, they were for Obama, or more likely for local candidates. The lack of yard signs- at least in the surrounding neighborhoods where I live- was noticeable and I wonder if it might be a reaction by residents to being targeted so heavily. Maybe the candidates were doing enough advertising on their own, in every conceivable way, and people didn’t want to “brand” their homes too.

With all of the excitement of being in a battleground county in a battleground state, the glare of such intense national attention can not only be fascinating, but also produce a headache. Volunteers from the Obama campaign knocked on our door multiple times, support taking on the flavor of personal harassment at times. I actually got used to the phone ringing- and now the silence is deafening- and I wasn’t really surprised when I heard about the next big political event in the region- and road closures.

However, for me, the memories of this election will be rich in details, thanks to the willingness of both campaigns to include all members of the press- even one with a tiny regional news site in Northern Colorado.

The Fort Collins event with President Obama was kind of like a walk in the park- a beautiful late summer day, in a pleasant outdoor environment. This was the first visit by a sitting President to CSU, but not the first visit by Obama. Obama spoke to the largest crowd in CSU history in 2008.

I also enjoyed seeing Joe Biden in Greeley. He’s more Old School than Obama in his delivery, able to mix a wise old sincerity with a wry, cynical twist. He wasn’t as careful as Obama and that made him a fiery speaker indeed.

Of the celebrities I saw, perhaps WILL.I.AM, of the Black-Eyed Peas, was the most famous. But the most inspiration talk was given by actor Zachary Quinto in an event meant to fire up volunteers hitting the streets to canvass for Obama. Quinto was well prepared with a statement for the event and delivered it with some personal passion.

I went to Obama’s Boulder rally on November 1 for pleasure. Following the final Presidential debate between Romney and Obama on October 22, I sensed that the President was going to win- and I really wanted to see the winner again.

I’m an Obama fan because he is a good speaker and puts out a friendly vibe. But that charm is mixed with a sincerity and a challenge to get to work on some big ideas.

Other than being questioned stringently by a cop on my way to the Press parking, everything about the Boulder trip went smoothly. I even took the time to drive the Foothills Highway from Lyons down to Boulder and experience a beautiful Colorado sunset before hitting Boulder.

And, for my effort, I was rewarded with another effective speech by the President and a rocking roomful of supporters.

I’ll admit that I made plans to attend two major Mitt Romney events in the Denver area. I had a ticket, but no Press confirmation for Romney’s showcase moment at Red Rocks, and canceled my plans. I’m glad I did because another photographer on the campaign trail told me that 21,000 tickets had been distributed for a venue that only held 9000 people- leaving some angry people at the gates.

I also considered the final Romney event at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre in Denver just three days before the election, but also cancelled those plans, having seen Obama just a few days before.

Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan was the real winner on the ticket- he retained his seat in the House of Representatives and got lots and lots of face time with voters in hot locations. Colorado probably saw much more of Ryan than Romney. I’m glad I saw him and was able to hear the Republican side directly from one of the major players.

In Larimer County, though, I would say that while the Republicans seemed to rule with telephone messages and snail mail, the Democrats ruled the ground with many more public events and a lot of volunteers.

Was all of this necessary? As exhausting as all of the above got to be in a battleground state in what has been called the most expensive Presidential election on record, I think every bit of it is necessary.

Campaigns in the 21st Century must do absolutely everything they can and must keep doing it all of the time until the final polls close. There is no “enough” in American campaigning now- it’s an escalating arms-race of information and it will not stop until every “battleground” in the country is saturated with effort.

My prediction is that the NEXT election will become the most expensive election ever, and so on. And every state will eventually become a “battleground state.”

But now, let’s get back to those tears produced by Obama’s victory speech. While I am an Obama fan, I’m not so personally attached to the guy that I must cry with joy at his re-election. It was more like, on the night my daughter was born, I cried not from sorrow or pain, but just from the sheer intensity of the moment. I think Obama wrapped up the election is grand style with his speech and I felt gratified because, at the end of such a grueling election cycle, I ultimately wanted to be inspired. And for me, Obama delivered.

I let the inspiration I felt- not just from Obama’s speech but from the whole election process- enter into a conversation with some friends on the morning after I watched the video. But before I could get much said, one of them shut me down flat by accusing Obama of being a “liar”- end of discussion.

A little later, I returned to the YouTube video version of Obama’s speech that I had watched- posted by the New York Times- and was shocked by the comments that had been added about the video. Racist death threats and offensive personal insults dominated the entries.

These couple of negative elements to my experience following the Election remind me that inspiration only goes so far. No matter what bridge you cross, there is always a troll underneath ready to spoil the trip.

Added to this, I think of all of the disappointed Republican voters, as well as those who supported other party candidates. To say the least, not everyone was inspired by President Obama’s re-election.

But, with that said, my “battleground state” experience in the 2012 Election was certainly thrilling. It also makes me wonder what’s going to happen next time. Will there be different battlegrounds? Or will the “war of the words” return to my state and my county to do it all over again?