The city of Boulder has always been fertile ground for artistic creativity, from actors (Robert Redford) to pop musicians (Big Head Todd and the Monsters) and cultural mysteries (Nancy Spungen). And the hub is, of course, the University of Colorado. Since I didn’t attend the school — yes, many of my friends did, including most of the Knew, which formed there — I feel comfortable fawning over its achievements. (And, no, 3OH!3 does not count.) These artists attended the University of Colorado at Boulder — if even for a short time — and all any Buff can do is hope the school and its surroundings had an impact.
Many know Chairlift for “Bruises,” and its inclusion in the 21st century music business Holy Grail: an iPod commercial. But the group, which was founded at CU in 2005, is much more than that. While founding member Aaron Pfenning has departed, Caroline Polachek remains. Her vocals are haunting and sultry; Patrick Wimberly’s rhythms propel the whole thing upward. The group plays the Larimer Lounge tonight. Show up and forgive ‘em for moving to Brooklyn.
4. Judy Collins
Ms. Collins has reached living legend status in these parts and for good reason: her socially-conscious folk, even when penned by others, is as powerful as it is gorgeous. It’d be hard to separate the inspiration for CSNY’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from her alma mater, especially with a school (and town, for that matter) as politically active as it remains to this day.
The unprintable acronym of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s pseudo-band is just like everything else they do: absolutely hilarious. While the two aren’t exactly touring the country backed by — who would be a good fit? — Slash, Les Claypool and Ringo Starr, there is no doubt that the “South Park” founders are fabulous songwriters. From “Team America” to “The Book of Mormon,” Parker and Stone’s parodies combine wit, catchiness and vulgarity like no other tandem on the planet.
2. Townes Van Zandt
Like many a CU student, Van Zandt had his problems with the bottle up in Boulder. But, instead of just throwing up all over a Nebraska fan at Folsom, his trials and tribulations led to some of the best country music America has ever known.
1. Glenn Miller
It’s hard to believe that one of the all-time jazz greats was once a Sigma Nu pledge at the University of Colorado. During his brief stint in Boulder, he used to travel to Denver to play with Boyd Senter’s band. He went on to helm a hyper-influential big band and, later, disappear over the English Channel during World War II. CU students can still honor his memory by attending one of the various events in a campus ballroom that bears his name. That is, if they’re in the mood.