To get Boulder officials to give in, Nick Forster had to convince them he’d found God. For 21 years, Forster and his wife, Helen, have headed up eTown, an internationally syndicated radio show based in Boulder. And for almost that long, Forster had his eye on an old church at 16th and Spruce streets. He envisioned it as an all-in-one performance space: the ideal blend of near-perfect acoustics, a first-rate recording studio, and a coffee bar that would serve as a local gathering spot. It should have been a slam dunk in the indie-music haven of Boulder.
But the city resisted—that is until 2006, when Forster spent about $15 online to become an ordained minister, which eased the city’s concerns about preserving the property’s spiritual roots. “That was the tipping point,” Forster says. Using stringent green principles—the complex was constructed with recycled building materials, and you can track the output of its 236 solar panels on the organization’s website—the church’s renovation into eTown Hall will be completed this month. (Forster has deployed his ministerial talents just once: to marry rockers Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed
On July 1, eTown will unveil the new theater with a taping with City and Colour (aka singer-songwriter Dallas Green). The Hall—which will host shows by lesser-known artists as well as intimate performances with recognizable bands—is less than a quarter of the size of the Boulder Theater, where eTown historically produced most of its programs. (The show will still do occasional broadcasts from the Boulder Theater as well as from larger venues like Red Rocks). The coffee bar will showcase local and regional musicians. Swapping some audience capacity to satisfy a grander vision is a trade Forster was happy to make: “It’s both a media- and music-oriented community center,” he says. “I don’t believe anything like this exists anywhere else in the country.” etown.org
Upcoming Etown Shows
• July 14 • Brandi Carlile (Red Rocks)
• July 18 • Emmylou Harris, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, Arlo Guthrie (Red Rocks)
• August 9 • Dr. John (Lincoln Center, Fort Collins)
• September 22 • The Head and the Heart, Gregory Alan Isakov (Boulder Theater)