JAMfest, featuring high school musicians and the Flobots’ Jonny Five, a success

Eli Boonin-Vail | Boulder Weekly

Fresh air, a cool breeze, and decent turnout made Friday’s inaugural outdoor JAMfest, held at Fairview High School, a smashing success. Featuring performances from a plethora of high school musicians, the event, which helped raise money for disaster relief program ShelterBox, proved that high school students can be effective organizers, fundraisers, and humanitarians.

Annie Casey, the Fairview High School junior who organized the event through her school’s Interact program (a Rotary-affiliated program for high schools she herself had started at Fairview earlier in the year), was inspired to put on JAMfest from a similar event that had taken place earlier in the year.

“I have friends down in Castle Rock who did a JAMfest through their Interact club,” she says. “When they did it, it was more of a talent show thing. We went for more of a just music thing.”

Fairview High School already has a highly attended talent show organized by its arts department, but Casey’s Interact program set out to prove that students could organize and put on their own music event. Leveraging some connections, the club pulled in acts from Fairview and Boulder High Schools, as well as the star attraction: Jonny Five of Denver hip-hop act The Flobots.

“I get a lot of different requests like this.” Johnny Five says. “You’d be surprised how many people there are out there that are putting together cool stuff like this.”

The line up included straight-up rock bands like The Stellar Atlas and more vocal acts like the talented Josh Rivera and Kelly Fitzgerald, whose rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” proved to be a precocious performance full of the sound of seasoned singers, despite their young ages. The same could be said for many of the acts. Stellar Atlas’ tight performance was a real crowd-pleaser. The Stellar Atlas now looks to be closing down shop, since some of its key members are now graduating high school and leaving for college, but the band still decided to perform for JAMfest.

“We heard it was for a good cause,” says Taylor Tuke, the band’s lead vocalist and bassist. “Our band is almost kinda done so we figure we might as well go out with cool stuff like this.”

While the festival certainly accounted for the loud spaced-out sounds of the Stellar Atlas, it also gave room for more intimate acts like Boulder High School’s Tilda Gross, whose solo keyboard performance held great sway with the crowd.

Casey admits that the festival grew beyond her expectations.

“It was supposed to be a Fairview only thing,” she says. “But one thing led to another and other exceptionally talented musicians came along.”

This year, the festival’s proceeds went to ShelterBox, an organization that provides manufactured temporary housing to disaster victims, such as those who lost their homes in the Japanese tsunami. On the outskirts of the venue, Interact set up one of ShelterBox’s tents to demonstrate what attendance fees were going towards. Visitors duck in and out, signing up for mailing lists and even joining Interact.

One student sums it up best: “It’s a bunch of people getting together and listening to the music they love for a good cause. What could be better than that?”