By Ali Mignone, Stage Manager for Strings Music Festival

If an army marches on its stomach, then a music festival marches on its coffee mug.

It has fallen to me to make the backstage coffee at Strings. But it has fallen to others to drink it. At this point, four weeks into the season, I’ve made around 30 pots of brown go-go juice. That might not seem like much if you work at Creekside or Winona’s, but I’m a tea drinker (coffee caffeine makes me too feisty for company), so that amount seems enormous to me. And I make truly awful coffee, so that amount probably seems enormous to my co-workers and the musicians, too.

There’s the pot of coffee for the Strings crew and office staff, first to arrive in the morning. Then there’s one for the musicians to sip at as they prep for rehearsal. On Different Tempo days, there’s also a pot for the traveling crew as they emerge, bleary-eyed, from the tour bus that made an overnight haul to Steamboat from their last gig. Sometimes there’s a second pot needed at rehearsal break for the classical musicians, or one at dinner to keep the Different Tempo bus and truck drivers awake overnight to the next gig.

The nice people at Steamboat Coffee and Tea Company must have heard about my…creations…so they took pity on the artists and kindly donated the use of a fancy machine and a bunch of lovely coffee for classical rehearsals. They also insisted on coming to Strings to train me on how to use the machine properly. This took an hour, because I am both dense and stubbornly resistant to change. But I take good notes and follow directions eventually, so the classical musicians get the good stuff.


My co-workers and the Different Tempo artists, on the other hand, get the regular old coffee pot and whatever ratio of coffee grounds to water that happens to appeal to me on that day. It is not always a fortunate combination.

Why, in heaven’s name, would they ask a tea drinker to make gallons of coffee for already high-strung artistic types? Someone at Strings has a sick sense of humor.

I’ve been accused of making terrible coffee on purpose, in the hope that someone (anyone) will ask me not to make it anymore. While the idea of a secret exit plan appeals to me, I actually consider myself in the Coffee Philosophy Camp of my brother Dave, a combat veteran with three (soon to be four) small children, who believes that coffee is simply a tool for consciousness. “Are you awake?” he says. “Then it’s working. Who cares what it tastes like?”

Just how bad can my coffee be if so many people are drinking so much of it during the season? Well, let me give you one example: Production Director Steve Chambers used caffeinated water to make coffee while he was a rigger on a U2 tour and reported that it tasted horrible, but he still drank enough to make his eyes vibrate. This is a man who will drink just about anything. But last Sunday, even though sound engineers Noah and Tyler managed to choke down a cup each, Steve rebelled at my backstage bean water and offered to make a new pot himself.

Maybe that exit plan idea has some merit. If only I had thought of it four weeks ago…


Upcoming events:

Tickets available at (970) 879-5056 and www.stringsmusicfestival.com.


Ali Mignone stage manages for Strings Music Festival, among other things. When she’s not telling roadies and musicians what to do, you can find her hiking, biking or skiing around the Yampa Valley and blogging at thequirkyquill.com.


Posted on July 18, 2016
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