Many fans have bands they recognize as being clearly worthy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but whose genius and importance — so obvious to the dearly devoted — was never universally recognized by the masses.

For television producer Lee Aronsohn ("Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory"), that band was Boulder's Magic Music.

And unlike many fans frustrated at seeing the object of their passion fade into history in a haze of anonymity, he set out not only to tell their largely forgotten story and celebrate their legacy; he, for at least one night, engineered a redemptive moment in the spotlight that too often eluded them in their youth.

Aronsohn, who serves as a viewer’s guide through the excavation of his personal passion, tells of his arrival to Boulder in the early 1970s, attracted by the University of Colorado’s billing in an underground college guide as a hotbed for “dope and sex.” We don’t learn how much of those commodities he found in Boulder. Rather, it was an ensemble of long-haired mellow musicians he stumbled upon one day on campus spinning their repertoire of tight, sun-dappled harmonies against a breezy fabric of acoustic guitars, tabla and flute that captured his attention in a way he would never shake.

The result is….

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie

“Now, I’d been a high school hippie, but these guys were the real thing,” Aronsohn recalls. “They talked about living up in the mountains in school buses and cabins and when they sang it really did sound like magic.”
In the fashion familiar to viewers of documentaries of rock’s greats, we get in this account of never-were’s testimonials from those who were there and remember Magic Music wistfully as capturing the spirit of a Rocky Mountain enclave where the 1960s lasted well into the 1970s and Google was not even a glimmer on futurists’ horizons.

“It was a time in Boulder, and this was the band in Boulder that defined that friendliness and that love,” says one aging fan. And another: “Magic Music was a light in the darkness.” They were, in the eyes of many, the prototypical Colorado jam band.

But, then, as another friend of the band recalls ruefully — and of how many also-rans can this be said? — “Every time they got close, it somehow went wrong.”

Some members of Magic Music would not be unfamiliar to historians of the Colorado music scene. It included Chris “Spoons” Daniels on guitar — he found lasting success fronting Chris Daniels and the Kings — and Rob Galloway (formerly known as “Poonah,” now known as “Don’t Call Me Poonah”) on bass, who would go on to play with Carole King, Navarro and Leftover Salmon. Other members were George “Tode” Cahill on flute, Will “Wilbur” Luckey on guitar, Kevin “CW” Milburn on percussion, Bill “Das” Makepeace, who succeeded Galloway on bass, and founding member Lynn “Flatbush” Poyer, a guitarist who died in 2011.
What went wrong? A little bit of everything, as the story unfolds, ranging from being kicked off a tour opening for Cat Stevens after making the unforgivable — for a warmup act — mistake of performing an encore to a wildly appreciative audience in Denver, to dismissing one music pro’s insistence that they add a drummer.
After making their original base of operations a dilapidated school bus warmed by a wood-burning stove in Eldorado Canyon, followed by a remote cabin in Allenspark, and despite flirtations with record deals that could have pulled them to New York or Los Angeles, the musicians and associated tribe settled instead into an abandoned ranch property in Pagosa Springs in southern Colorado.
“Magic Music removed itself, the way modern folks set down the cell phone and turn it off and try and just get away from things,” Daniels recalls.
While the mistakes and missed opportunities that ended their six-year run in 1976 might not have been entirely unique, their second act, fueled by Aronsohn’s singular quest to find and reunite the surviving members of the band for one night at the sold-out Boulder Theater in November 2016, highlights the arc of this story.

The tools he employs are a mix of the familiar for this genre —interviews from witnesses to their early days and surviving band members, archival photos, and no shortage of sampling Magic Music’s frothy oeuvre. But, lacking a trove of performance video from their modest heyday, animation is also deployed to fill in the gaps Aronsohn would surely have wished to address another way.

The story builds to the nostalgic reunion at the Boulder Theater for an adoring audience long gone gray, balding and perhaps disillusioned by the sobering realities of the intervening years —but one that still clearly remembers all the lyrics.(The band also had an engagement Friday night at Unity of Boulder.) Viewers who don’t know the songs and prefer a little more punch in their music might be able to take or leave the soundscape of Aronsohn’s movie. Yet, as a chronicle of an era when Boulder was known as the place where the hip meet to trip rather than a realtor’s utopia, it’s a priceless document.
The surviving members of Magic Music, scattered by time to places as diverse as Martha’s Vinyard, Mass., Birmingham, Ala., Carson City, Nev., and Longmont, are charming companions as they tell a common story — failed dreams of stardom — that unspools against a unique backdrop and is artfully presented by Aronsohn. Everyone convinced that they could have been a contender should have as faithful a testament.


Written By Charlie Brennan Staff Writer POSTED: 02/23/2018

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