The Endless Winter

The Endless Winter. A series produced by Cactus Cat, an adventure rock group based out of Fort Collins, helmed by a saxophonist who got his hands on an electric ukulele and too many pedals. Depending on the day, Cactus Cat’s sound changes but what is stable is surf drums that drive the beat, a tasty little bass, nimble guitar, otherworldly vocals, and lush harmonies. The Endless Winter is music before a movie at the Lyric Cinema on Friday nights. All shows are 5:30-6:30 with the exception of Halloween Spectacular! (5:30-7:30)

And what is Endless Winter exactly? “It’s what this winter is going to feel like as we continue to fail as a nation at battling this pandemic. The summer has had its share of difficulties but with the great outdoors as an option I don’t think we’ve really felt how difficult it’s going to be to continue to be responsible when the cold hits and it starts getting dark at 5 pm. This is an attempt at counterbalancing the inevitable seasonal depression that’s going to be compounded by the state of the world this year, an attempt to encourage people to put on layers and keep safely getting sunshine and social interaction,” says Aaron Varnell – sax, ukulele, vocals.

Cactus Cat members:

  • Aaron Varnell – sax, ukulele, vocals.
  • McKenzie Tharp – vocals, hand percussionJakob
  • Corbin – guitarStephen Garrison – bass
  • Josh Cogell – drums


And they have been known to play with:

  • Nolan Braumbach (of The Crooked Rugs) – drums
  • Maxwell Tretter (of Mega Fawn) – guitar, drums
  • Evan Forsyth (of Mega Fawn) – guitar, vocals
  • Rich Sanchez – Guitar
Cactus Cat playing at the Lyric Cinema.

How did Cactus Cat get the opportunity to play live and coordinate outdoor music at the Lyric Cinema? “I think we may have been the first band to play at the new Lyric location a few years ago shortly after they opened up, I loved the space and reached out to make it happen. There was no stage, we were crammed into a corner of the lobby and had to play very quietly. But it went great and we’ve been playing with some regularity since. We watched them bring in more music and build two awesome stages,” says Aaron. “When COVID hit, it corresponded with the members of Cactus Cat scattering to the four winds. I wanted to make music, solo if needed, so I reached out to the Lyric and found they had already booked Thursdays through Saturdays the entire summer. But Wednesdays were wide open, so I met with Ben Mozer (the owner) and told him I wasn’t looking for a single gig, I was looking for a place to come regularly and build something. I have two young kids and work full-time as an environmental consultant so I found myself constantly frustrated by the booking competition that inherently goes into trying to find spots to play. Because of the organizational complexities of my life it’s difficult for me to go to people on their schedule, I need them to come to me on mine. So after a summer of playing every other Wednesday with a rotating lineup, Ben asked if I wanted to book or play every Friday, then asked if I just wanted to completely take over music. He wanted a musician to do it, someone who was reliable and could bring a creative energy that will hopefully creep towards some long-term musical visions for the space. Time will tell, but at the outset it seems like a good fit. We have big plans, stay tuned.”

Aaron loves the creative energy of the Lyric Cinema and he love the concepts that go into making these completely unique experiences that are constantly happening there. “It’s a blank canvas for creatives and a few folks have realized that and are using it in that way but it hasn’t seen its full potential yet, not even close. If it continues on its current trajectory it’s going to be the most notable place in northern Colorado in a decade or so,” says Aaron.


The concerts are outdoors. They are social distanced and masks are REQUIRED. Aaron supposes there’s going to be some rough weeks or months in there but musician’s don’t have many options for live performances. Based on Brookings study, Lost art: Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy, “We estimate losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide, representing nearly a third of all jobs in those industries and 9% of annual sales. The fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion in sales. These estimated losses represent 50% of all jobs in those industries and more than a quarter of all lost sales nationwide.” 

Aaron is hoping that people will prepare and come together to keep the heartbeat of creativity pumping through the space, “I’ll be freezing my fingers off and making music through the darkest parts of this so I’d appreciate if at least a couple people came to join me. The Lyric is able to compensate artists enough to make it  sustainable, but times are lean and we’ve seen similar businesses go under in the last few months. Many of the multi-member bands are essentially doing this for gas money, community, the thrill of performance, and a free meal. If you like the music, show your support by buying merch or throwing a few bucks into the tip jar. And give them a follow on social media. Many of these groups have big-stage dreams and the numbers game is real when it comes to getting booked at established venues.”

Band, My Dog Ate Chad, posing at one of the art sculptures in the film yard.

Follow @cactuscatband on instagram and the Cactus Cat You Tube channel has a steady slew of performance videos.

 Email cactuscatband@gmail.com or send them a Facebook or Instagram message to inquire.

“For this winter you’ll need to be hearty to play, but by the time we get to the warm days on the other side we’ll hopefully have built a community of musicians who have shared the experience of working towards a common goal and will be that much stronger for it. Looking forward to hearing your passion,” says Aaron.

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