Gathering of the Clouds creator Kurt Ottaway his festival's origins - Reverb

Gathering of the Clouds creator Kurt Ottaway on the death of a band and birth of a festival

Denver-rooted musician Kurt Ottaway is a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll in Colorado. His brave history of garage- and psych-influenced music – from Twice Wilted to Tarmints to Overcasters – speaks for itself, as does his work with the annual music festival Gathering of the Clouds.

Gathering of the Clouds, which takes over the Walnut Room on March 7-9, is continually a smartly programmed, community-driven weekend of music, and this year’s fest features the best lineup of the event’s history. Some of the national headliners include the Warlocks, the Black Ryder and Gliss; The locals include Wovenhand, Land Lines, Hindershot, the Morning Clouds, Broken Spirits and the Vandelles.

We caught up with Ottaway to hear about his involvement with the Gathering, his latest musical endeavor and what it takes for him to be “crapping rainbows.”

Question: So Kurt, if my memory serves me, you’ve always played each Gathering. But how does that work in a post-Overcasters world? Are you still going to figure out a way to play the festival?

Answer: Some of my musical intentions have shifted in the past year, and I will be playing this year’s festival with my new band, Emerald Siam. I am not expecting everything to be exactly the way that I want it to, but it’s a rock show, right? Mainly, I am a fan of the bands that are playing, and we are going to do just a short cameo; four or five songs, maybe.

Q: Speaking of the Overcasters, can you talk about the band’s dissolution?

A:We had a super strong six-year run and were lucky enough to play a lot of shows with some of our favorite bands and built a fan-base we adore. Up until this point I have kept quiet about the break, and I personally care about all those individuals and have a great respect for their future endeavors. It is now time for me to take a deep breath of new air into my lungs and move on with music. If you hear rumors swirling, it’s probably just going to add to the story down the road.

Q: Getting back to the Gathering, I remember the first one back at your warehouse. Can you talk about why you’ve moved through several venues, from your own DIY space to City Hall and now to the Walnut Room?

A: Our homemade shows were very rewarding and allowed for a lot of creative input from different sources. However, when we moved the festival to established venues, the result was a more diverse blend of people, many (who don’t) normally venture out to DIY shows. It also enabled us to bring in national acts and mix them with local bands. This year it is at the Walnut Room because Randall Frazier is a musician like all of us and has dedicated himself to music that he personally cares about, and it has enabled us to be idealistic about the booking. Additionally, the Walnut Room has the feel of a DIY room (small and intimate) but is sonically treated for incredibly great sound.

Q: And this lineup seems to be the best you’ve ever had – with the Black Ryder, especially, and is this Warlocks’ second time at the Gathering? Do you handle all the booking?

A: I couldn’t be happier with the way the lineup has worked out. This will be the Warlocks’ first time playing Gathering of the Clouds, and we are crapping rainbows. I handle the local acts, and Maggie Gulasey (BatKitten) books all of the national acts.

Q: Who else works with on the Gathering each year?

A: Gathering of the Clouds is put on by a collective group of contributors that include Tyler Jacobson, Todd Spriggs, Maggie Gulasey and myself. But there are so many people that go out of their way to make this happen, for example, Randall Frazier, John Burr, Becky Wareing-Steele, Troy Stubby, Josh McNeilly and a list that could be endless that include all of the participating bands and vendors. The cool thing about this year is that there are many new musical projects, and with that we were simultaneously able to maintain much of our tradition without a lot of repeat bands. In other words, we have the whole family with a lot of new babies.

Q: You call it an “atmospheric rock” festival. Some might look at the line-up and call it “psych” or “shoegaze” … so I’m curious, what is your signpost when thinking about bands playing the Gathering?

A: If you read a magazine, like The Big Takeover, Jack Rabid is a extraordinary lover of music with heart and doesn’t write about music that is genre specific. Instead, Jack simply writes about music that speaks to him. He also happens to share musical taste that I appreciate. So when I say atmospheric rock, I am taking one step away from pigeon-holing people. I don’t want to be so narrow-minded that I assume I know exactly what style of music they are trying to create. All I know is that it moves me in some way and has a larger than life voice. Basically I want to include bands in Gathering of the Clouds that speak to me.

Individual tickets are $17-$20 – while three-day passes are $50 – at thewalnutroom.com. Attendees are warned: “Arrive early for motorcycles, merchants, food and drink.”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.

  • Screwed

    “The cool thing about this year is that there are many new musical projects, and with that we were simultaneously able to maintain much of our tradition without a lot of repeat bands. In other words, we have the whole family with a lot of new babies.”….yeah, there are not a lot of repeat bands, because they got burned last year. Hopefully ‘the cool thing’ will be for the bands to be PAID this year.

    • Maggie

      Dear Screwed,

      I must admit, we were pretty unorganized last year on that front… “The cool thing” about this year is we tried to learn from our mistakes; we are far from perfect (and have a lot more to learn)! Payment last year, however, was communicated with many of the bands so I would imagine you speaking on behalf of all the participants is potentially inaccurate. I sincerely apologize if we overlooked you; upsetting our valued participants was never an intention and I am very sorry for your dismay. I really wish you would directly communicate this with us, “screwed”. Feel free to email me at: Maggie.Batkitten@gmail.com. We would love to remedy this. Thank you!

      -Maggie

    • Anonymous

      Glad to see a couple people getting the truth out there…

  • John Pearson

    So, Kurt personally cares about the former Overcasters, and their endeavors?? What a load! He can’t even bring himself to give them credit as co creators? Kept quiet about the break? HA! He will tear down the major talent that band has ever had, every chance he gets. Too bad. He really has image control down. Initiate chaos, then step back and point fingers.

    • Anonymous

      Nail on the head, John Pearson!

  • Todd

    Hi John, pardon my French but you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. There are 5 people that know the whole story and you are not one if them. Todd Spriggs (Overcasters bass player last 2 years)

    • DreadedEd

      I wonder how long it takes to earn $7500.?