Mike Flanagan tunes in to the sound of the future

(Photo: CPR / Daniel Mescher)

Discovery. It’s a really big word. So big it can take up a whole sentence.

The Age of Discovery was always a favorite Social Studies section of mine. The explorers, the adventurers, those who set out on great voyages in flimsy ships all following the spirit of Joey Ramone who said “There has to be more to life than this…”

For all the grief Columbus has taken since 1492, we have to remember that he did a great pledge break for his target audience, Ferdinand and Isabella, and got the funding for three ships that took him one place when he thought he was going somewhere else.

But all the great explorers, from Chris and Leif Erickson and Vasco de Gama and Magellan, clear into the future with Captain Kirk in 2265 (he’ll be using stardates by then) share a common bond: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man (or woman) has ever gone before.

For OpenAir on our third birthday, it's still a cultural road trip. Certainly cassettes and 8-tracks are flying around the Magic Bus. We're receiving signals from all over. We're picking up hitchhiking new and emerging artists and they have their CDs and Mp3s and .wav files in their backpacks. This GPS does time and space! 

Four members of The itchy-O Marching Band chat with OpenAir's Scott Carney

(Photo: CPR / Michael Hughes)

Strange new worlds? Look no further than our own Colorado backyard for the confounding provocateurs known as Itchy-O, who may well have set their destination as Denver from a distant star field.

New life and new civilizations? Witness the reinvention of St. Vincent who changes her game with every song. The rock and roll torch carried by Jack White. The rhythm circus of tUnE-yArDs. The world vision of Damon Albarn. The blistering constant invention of Ty Segall. The born again blues of Benjamin Booker. The jewels left behind by the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, and Joy Division. 

New beacons Jim James, Beck, Sondre Lerche and Cat Power elbowing for room alongside Brian Eno, David Bowie, Morrissey, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. The voyages of the starships Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Future Islands, and Alt-J meshing into delicious gridlock in tandem with the long haul projections of the Flaming Lips, Radiohead, and Wilco. 

The possibilities birthed by Tame Impala, White Denim, Parquet Courts, Mac DeMarco, Jake Bugg, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Mike Doughty, Lykke Li, Hooray for the Riff Raff and so many more that aren’t at the top of my head right this second.

They are all on vision quests, trying to make sense of the new songs and ideas that keep showing up in their heads, blazing trails first scorched by the Beatles, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, the Yardbirds, the Clash, Talking Heads, Bob Dylan and everybody else who lives in our collective memory vault for whatever reason, usually because they didn’t just mirror their times, they were there times.  

Yet, for every artist every day is nothing less than a new world. They are the first to takes these steps, to travel these roads. To explore musical worlds that may be known to others but not to them, not yet. 

Not that reason plays any part of this, but they chose to seek not to replace, not to destroy, not to tear anything away from this most delicious fabric that is now over a century in the making (if you go back to the 1911 birth of Robert Johnson) but to bask in the same sunshine of your love.

Sylvan Esso

(Photo: CPR / Mark Coulter)

Following all these journeys wherever they may be has been the essence of OpenAir. We put all these artists together at a daily party, invite you to join us, then take you around and introduce you to our close personal friends Sylvan Esso, Father John Misty, Gene Vincent, Sallie Ford, Muddy Waters, Kishi Bashi, Tom Waits, and Zola Jesus. 

They all have something in common with you. Whatever you are looking for, it’s going to be better with a soundtrack. 

Now add to that menu the incredible second decade of the 21st Century Colorado music scene, and this big picture we’re painting has all the aspects of a John Fielder landscape. Over 250 Colorado artists populate our stacks of wax and that number grows every day. We are a fascinating location in a pivotal time, framed by a natural glory that predates and reaches far beyond the today we dig so much.

All of this because today -- right now -- is the best time in history to fall in love with music. The technology has thrown open the air that is filled by all music from all time from all corners of our world. At our fingertips we have everything from the complete Johnny Cash catalog to something that was cranked out in a bedroom in Denmark yesterday. 

The technology is far from finished: digital has been challenged to match the warmth and depth delivered by vinyl, and we are about to experience an avalanche of choices in not only what we listen to, but how we hear it.

Whether your collection is digital or analog at this juncture, I’m guessing it spans many genres and times. And you probably spend more time adding than deleting. Once music has enveloped your spirit, it doesn’t let you go. 

Times evolve, we all have changes in taste. What music we listened to at one time in our life can put us back there at any time, but it can also reference what came Next. Putting that Next in context is why OpenAir exists, to push that knowledge and musical love forward. It’s a challenge keeping up with even a portion of it, so we have enthusiastic tour guides along the way.

As OpenAir embarks upon our fourth year, the enterprise continues. Discovery is not about conclusion, resolution…not even about a destination. It moves forward, marking trails along the way.

And best of all, OpenAir’s mission of discovery is still all about the journey.