If you’re familiar with Netflix and you’re a mountain person, you might know that the Web-DVD and streaming movie service has “The Eiger Sanction,” the Clint Eastwood 1975 climbing-murder movie, available to stream directly to your computer. Aside from that and a handful of ski and snowboard porn films, the selection of mountain movies is somewhat limited. If you’ve ever sat at home and wished you could watch a climbing or skiing movie without having to pay $29.95 to own it, you’ll want to check out SteepEdge.com, where you can stream, or buy digitally, hundreds of films on kayaking, mountain culture, climbing, adventure racing, mountaineering, mountain
biking, polar adventure and other topics. Films can be rented for three days of watching for $4-$6, or purchased for $12-$25. The selection is mostly British and European films, and is heavy on climbing — but my hope is that someone in the U.S. would be inspired by the idea and start a similar business on this side of the Atlantic — kind of like we did with “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Steep Edge was imagined as “virtual mountain film festival” by seven British founders who are climbers, hikers, cyclists and entrepreneurs, some of whom founded the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in the U.K. in 1979. steepedge.com
Podcast: Off Belay Podcast with Chris Kalous and Jamie Lynn Miller
Chris Kalous and Jamie Lynn Miller have a lot to say about climbing, and almost none of it is about sponsored athletes, the newest, flashiest gear, or news in the world of climbing, The Off Belay Podcast is a candid discussion of the important stuff. How candid? Well, maybe your dog doesn’t belong at the crag. Or your kid. Maybe you should stop bitching when you show up at Indian Creek, the most-famous crag in Colorado (oh, it’s in Utah?), and there are dozens of other people there. Chris and Jamie have had a few guests on the show, but the highlight is their own banter — whether it’s about online climbing forums, guns, hung draws or whatever. Between the two of them, Chris and Jamie have written for Climbing, Rock and Ice, Elevation Outdoors, Women’s Adventure, 303 Magazine, Men’s Health, the Snowmass Sun and others. And oh yeah, the Mountain Gazette, where Chris was the gear editor for a number of years. Jamie Lynn is also an on-air personality at Aspen Public Radio’s Sonic Byways. The Off Belay Podcast might be the most fun you’ll have listening to two people you don’t know talk about climbing you haven’t done. offbelaypodcast.com
Like an anxious little puppy waiting for its treat, the busker’s hat sits in anticipation on the sidewalk, enticing, luring, siren-like but never begging, because the musician behind it is offering up his or her soul in twangy plunking, picking, bowing earnest for all who pass by. He’ll have an audience for about 30 seconds, sometimes a minute. Sometimes people will throw money into the hat. Sometimes people will sneak money out of the hat. Sometimes they’ll take the hat. But the wandering minstrel endures and has the benefit of praise and hopefully gifts … if he or she has a smidgen of talent. Of course, with a short-term audience, all the busker really has to do is learn three or four songs and learn them really well, since no one ever stays around long enough to hear more than that. Troubadours can go into a continuous loop and no one would know the difference. “Wow, that guy covers Neil Young perfectly!” Well, yeah, it’s the only song he knows.
This isn’t true of all buskers, of course. Paul McCartney once busked his tune “Yesterday” on a London street unrecognized and only heard the jingle of a few coins. Sting played the pavement with his hat pulled down and made £40 with no one noticing. Bruce Springsteen would show up on a corner with his guitar. Tracy Chapman began her career busking at Harvard Square. Bob Dylan was positively impromptu on 4th Street at SXSW in Austin. Even Benjamin Franklin was a street performer of his own composed songs, poetry and prose. He was the original beatnik, carrying on about current politics and selling printed copies of his work. No one notices buskers, especially in cities, because no one wants to look a busker in the eye for fear of getting his life story or, worse, feel guilted into dropping dollars into the case.
It’s far different in the mountains for street performers, whose music and efforts are usually appreciated and rewarded. Outside of a coffee shop in Crested Butte, three bohemians are playing on a combined 20 strings — two guitars and a mandolin, while down the street on a bench sits Alex Klivecka, with guitar in hand and banjo at the ready. Alex jumped ship from a Silicon Valley job and hit the road busking from San Francisco to Park City, Utah, to the Colorado Rockies. “I don’t play perfect,” he confesses without remorse. “I can come out for half an hour and leave whenever I want. The crowds are more forgiving.”
“Busking in the mountains is much more friendly than the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Pearl Street is the Fillmore of busking,” says Tyler Lucas, a multi-instrumentalist. “There’s a lot of talent down there. It’s cutthroat.”
Jackson Melnick is still a teenager, but has busked all over the world, and now performs on the streets of Crested Butte. “I think how cultures respond to buskers tells a lot about how they feel about the arts in general. People who support buskers are the people’s patrons,” Jackson adds with a boyish smirk. “It also depends on your skill level.”
Mountain genre leans toward folk music, Americana and bluegrass, and there’s usually someone sitting around playing Grateful Dead songs. The busker will get requests for everything from Pop Goes the Weasel from a four-year-old to a promenading group needing a birthday song. While it’s true your ear will catch mostly popular culture tunes that pay the most, there are the phenomena of young students at classical music camps who will go solo or gather for a sidewalk chamber concert in places like Aspen during their music festival.
The resilient stock on the beat will brave the extreme elements, oftentimes getting the sympathy or respectful rewards. Andrea Lecos and Cory Obert (hardpressed.com) have played the pavement of Telluride and Ouray and were set up on a sidewalk in Durango when one of those ominous mountain storms rumbled in, badly bruising the sky to black and purple. “It was a deluge, but we kept going,” says Andrea, who wasn’t about to let the climate come between she, her partner and their prospective audience. “It was pitiful, because the streets cleared out, but we wanted to play. An older gentleman who was listening to us started throwing money in our cases and then said, ‘better yet make it a wrap and I’ll buy you a drink next door.’ Even though we wanted to make more money, it was still fun and we could have cared less … we were singing at the top of our lungs to no one and someone got us drunk.”
Minstrel Greg Pettys, who’s traveled the planet via guitar and horn, thinks Telluride’s great for busking. “People take care of you with money, booze and nuggets. People are psyched on the music. They invite you in and, before you know it, you have food and a place to stay. Music opens the doors. When you’re camping in the summer, you can make some pretty good money in the mountains.” Jackson won’t easily part with his own hard-earned coin unless there’s good reason. “Sometimes if there’s an amazing gypsy jazz trio on the street, I don’t feel obligated to give money because they’re just into playing for people and they have lots of paying gigs. But when it’s a dirtbag hippie like myself and he wants that muffin from the health food store, then I’ll toss a buck in.” However, Tyler feels that twinge of guilt. “Sometimes I feel awkward — those begging eyes and droning Dead songs. You feel like you have to give them a dollar.”
Clever performers know how to capture their audiences, as Michael Ruffalo on guitar and Ted Bosler, wearing the washboard, used to. “We’d get on the Mountain Express shuttle bus with all the tourists going up to the ski area. The more we insulted them, the more they liked us and gave us more money,” says Ted, the frontman, who went through their shtick. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are on the musical bus. In case of the unlikely event of a water landing, please use your seat as a flotation device. You will, at the end, give us most or all of your money.” And in between the guffaws, the duo would play their silly tunes, all related to local businesses and events. “The tourists loved us and the locals would grab a six pack and ride around. At the end of the night, we’d go to the bar and spend it all,” the Crested Buttian proudly proclaims.
Andrea thinks the benefits outweigh the sometimes meager living eked out, so she continues on her troubadour track. “You never know what kind of magic can come out of busking. It’s beyond just playing. It’s beyond the coin in the cup. It’s who you reach out there. People will come up and say ‘thanks for making our day.’ You make them happy. Of course, you might make some crazy. It’s a good gig. You reach a ton of people. It’s very low key and there’s no stress of having to carry around your PA, getting to sound check on time, no stage fright and, if you forget the words to your song, who cares, because people really enjoy it anyway and you still make money.” And she feels one of the big perks of busking on the street is always being able to have your best friend with you. “You can tie your dog up to something while you play, but you could never bring your dog to a real gig … and if you have a really cute dog, you’ll get more tips.”
If there’s too much structure in your world, and you can play three or four chords on any instrument while crooning out a few tunes, you may want to consider chucking it all for a life of busking and a sense of independence. The world will truly be your stage.
Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer and musician who is ready to abandon any remaining semblance of structure and give in to her lack of time management to busk the streets of the world. Until then, she’s a feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly who’s been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact email@example.com
After walking to the top of this rocky Thirteener, looking, as usual, for skiable terrain, I signed the summit register, for the first time ever. It was partly because I had never seen one before, anywhere, and had no ida that to actually do about it, but I signed the date, ace my name, and appended my affiliation with the “Eleventh Mountain Division,” the “Disrespectful Sons of the Tenth,” of Aspen, Colorado.
That done, I scrabbled down, over some monstrous scree, to welcome groves of Aspen, bordering the main forest thick green Spruce and Fir. It began to rain, harder, harder and harder, until I was reduced to hunkering down completely under my pancho, waiting for it to pass, or at least let up some. When it didn’t do either one, I had to get up and move anyway, on the forceful advice from the rain-soaked Indian scout in my imagination, and my father in his military presence, as well.
Finally the rain moved on, and left me facing groves of Aspen, interspersed with small open “parks,” meadows of grass and wildflowers. Navigating from one to the other, I suddenly entered one in which someone had made a campsite. The tent was zippered tight against the rain, and everything looked to be in order except for a lone item hanging from an improvised clothesline, on the opposite side of the clearing. Coming closer revealed it to be an inexplicable item of swimwear, hanging by itself, in the middle of nowhere, with no one in sight. The sensuous shape it had assumed immediately suggested to me that there was some girl running around out here in these woods without her swimsuit! A nude on the loose! In the rain, too! Ahhh, Magic strikes!
I fiddled around with my Nikon as long as I could, hoping someone would show up with an explanation, but it was not to be. I finally found a path leading out of the clearing, and reluctantly went on my way. I followed the path until it came to a small stream, which, on close inspection, seemed to have an uncanny resemblance, bordering on identity, with a spot on Conundrum Creek where I had photographed many years ago.
No sooner had I recoiled from pondering the identity over time and through space of this event of recognition, than, only a few yards more along the trail, I encountered two young girls with backpacks, trailing a small black kitten. Well, of course! Doesn’t everyone? They had just come down from a Fourteener, which one they didn’t say, and yes, the kitten had walked all the way to the summit.
I recited my experience with the empty swimsuit, and confessed to having made a photograph of it because it looked like a Nude on-the-loose, but they didn’t respond. Well, I joked, the worse that could happen would be that someday they might see the swimsuit hanging on the wall of a gallery somewhere. Still no comment, Oh, well they’re probably too tired to think about any more activity of a physical kind today, anyway!
Come to think of it, I’ll just limp on down the trail myself.
Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.
Books: “The Six Mountain-Travel Books,” by Eric Shipton
British explorer and mountaineer Eric Shipton was a tireless adventurer, known for the first ascent of Kamat, then the highest peak ever climbed in the world, and early Mount Everest reconnaissance that discovered the route over the Khumbu icefall. Shipton’s world travels, exploration and climbs were detailed in six books, long out of print, but re-released in a hardcover edition in 1997. Mountaineers Books has released “The Six Mountain-Travel Books” in one 800-page paperback edition: “Nanda Devi,” “Blank on the Map,” “Upon that Mountain,” “Mountains of Tartary,” “Mt. Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 1951” and “Land of Tempest.” $34.95 mountaineersbooks.com
Podcast: Off Belay Podcast with Chris Kalous and Jamie Lynn Miller
Chris Kalous and Jamie Lynn Miller have a lot to say about climbing, and almost none of it is about sponsored athletes, the newest, flashiest gear or news in the world of climbing, The Off Belay Podcast is a candid discussion of the important stuff. How candid? Well, maybe your dog doesn’t belong at the crag. Or your kid. Maybe you should stop bitching when you show up at Indian Creek, the most famous crag in Colorado (oh, it’s in Utah?), and there are dozens of other people there. Chris and Jamie have had a few guests on the show, but the highlight is their own banter — whether it’s about online climbing forums, guns, hung draws or whatever. Between the two of them, Chris and Jamie have written for Climbing, Rock and Ice, Elevation Outdoors, Women’s Adventure, 303 Magazine, Men’s Health, the Snowmass Sun and others. And oh yeah, the Mountain Gazette, where Chris was the gear editor for a number of years. Jamie Lynn is also an on-air personality at Aspen Public Radio’s Sonic Byways. The Off Belay Podcast might be the most fun you’ll have listening to two people you don’t know talk about climbing you haven’t done. offbelaypodcast.com
Radio: ClimbTalk Radio with Mike Brooks and Dave McAllister
For a couple non-college students running a radio show late on Thursday nights from a college radio station, Mike Brooks and Dave McAllister have convinced an incredible number of huge names in the climbing world to come on their show, which is 60 minutes of fairly organized fun. Brooks, of frontrangebouldering.com, and McAllister of pumpfactoryroad.com, have brought in a laundry list of who’s whos in the three years of ClimbTalk: John Bachar, Royal Robbins, John Long, Pat Ament, Jim Bridwell, Jim Erickson, Heidi Wirtz, Dave Graham, John Sherman, Jason Kehl, Peter Beal, Robyn Erbesfield and more. Brooks and McAllister keep the entire 60 minutes interesting, with their combined climbing knowledge, Brooks’ conversational instinct and McAllister’s bouncing-off-the-walls energy. ClimbTalk began in 2008 as a climbing TV show on the Boulder cable-access channel, then a radio show on KGNU and is now at its current home in KVCU, the radio station on the bottom floor of the UMC at the campus of the University of Colorado. The show airs at 10 p.m. MST every Thursday night, and can be streamed at that time from radio1190.org. Past shows are stored at archive.org/details/climbtalk. I plan to talk McAllister and Brooks into making the show into a podcast by the end of summer 2011, as well, so keep your eye on the iTunes.
Books: “Home Waters: A Year of Recompense on the Provo River,” by George B. Handley
Handley, a literary critic and professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, masterfully intertwines nature, the Mormon responsibility to take care of the environment, spirituality and family over a year of exploring the Provo River watershed. As a Hemingway fan and student of old-school newspaper journalism, I appreciate Handley’s ability to write about his environment, not with the over-the-top flowery adjectives and endless lists of flora and fauna used by many a nature essayist, but with the language of a writer who knows how to draw a scene using only the right words. Handley has the literary tact to make this book accessible to non-LDS readers, making the faith part of the story, not the story. “Home Waters” will get you thinking about what’s in your own backyard, and whether you need to travel far, or at all, to ponder and understand nature. $25, uofupress.com
Brendan Leonard is a writer, climber and urban cyclist living in Denver. More of his writing can be found at www.semi-rad.com. His blog, Semi-Rad, can be found at mountaingazette.com.
They grew up with rhythm thumping around their little heads, learned to dance before they could even crawl and were dragged off to many music festivals by parents. They live in a high-altitude paradise with the sounds of birdsong, rivers, wind in the aspens and communal jams, so it’s no wonder mountain children are predisposed to music. They may be mere babes in the wilds of the industry, but they’ve proven themselves to be very old souls in the world of picking, songwriting and performance. They are the next generation, the new breed of singer/songwriters, and they’re unafraid of expression, full of vim, creativity and a sassy grasp of their possibilities.
Sol Chase blew into Crested Butte on a gypsy wind when he was only six years old in August 2004. “I was traveling around 13 different countries with my dad, living a communal-centered, nature-rific alternative lifestyle,” the well-articulated 13-year-old says, painting a vision of a nomadic spirit most kids could only dream of. “My dad and a friend taught me guitar at the age of three. We were busking for many years, playing a lot of music on the streets of Europe. From age five, I could follow along on the songs and sometimes put out my own guitar case and for a couple hours I’d make 20 to 30 Euros. We’d set up on the streets and play whenever we went into town. From town to town, we’d camp somewhere and go into town once a week to buy groceries and play music. We’d busk to get enough money to get to the next town. It was a gypsy life and it was definitely fun. It exposed me to a lot of different cultures. I’ve got more of an open mind to other things, and I feel I’m a more well-rounded person.”
By age six, Sol had switched to mandolin as his main instrument because of the smaller size and he enjoyed the sound. Sol and his dad Merrick also switched mountain towns and uprooted themselves to Telluride, where there were more musical opportunities. “When my dad and I came to America, one of our first stops was at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I loved the music, I loved the atmosphere, the openness and friendliness. I actually got to play on the main stage that year,” Sol remembers, fearlessly plotting a course for the limelight. “I wanted to play, but it seemed unobtainable, it seemed super important, but I kinda thought it was possible right after Yonder Mountain String Band played.” Sol told his father he wanted to get up on stage and play immediately. “Like NOW, so my dad lifted me over the back stage fence. I had my guitar and dad was on bongos and I played three songs. I played one of my originals (“Last Train to Berlin”) and then played two old-time gypsy songs (“Raggle Tangle Gypsies” and “Go Move Shift”). People still remember it today. It was pretty awesome. I don’t think I quite realized the enormity of it, but my dad was freaking out. I was just playing to play,” he chuckles.
Sol’s influences draw from a tight genre: Yonder Mountain, Jeff Austin, Chris Thile and Drew Emmitt, the latter of whom Sol has played with several times. “I’m definitely bluegrass; it’s my thing,” he says. You can hear Emmitt’s influential style in Sol’s picking. Adept and lightning fast, his fingers know their way around a mandolin with surprisingly tasteful riffs for one so shy in years. “I haven’t really met anyone who started as young as I did,” Sol admits. “Some of the now-famous musicians started young. At this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, I played with a guitarist named Bella Hudson. She’s 12 and lives in Evergreen. I met her last year at the kids’ tent at the Bluegrass Festival.”
“I had a feeling that I had to write songs and play music because I wanted to express myself in music,” says the 12-year-old Bella Hudson, a singer-songwriter who picked up a guitar a mere four years ago — but as a matter of perspective, it’s a third of her life. “I’ve written 20 songs and recorded 12. Growing up in the mountains with the views, a song will hit me when I’m looking out the window, and they’re my best songs.”
Telluride Bluegrass Festival has a history of being really supportive of kids in music, and kids get the benefit of serendipitously and spontaneously connecting. “I met Sol and we were jamming at the Festival,” Bella says of the 2010 Telluride event. She was asked to play on the main stage that year and came home super charged and inspired, having performed in front of thousands of people. “This spring, Sol and I recorded three songs together at Immersive Studios in Boulder, one of mine called ‘Cowgirl Prom’.” Bella and Sol worked on each other’s music for this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival and performed a mini set to about 12,000 people in a Saturday morning slot. “I wasn’t scared. I was really excited!” she enthusiastically giggles about the fabulous reception both she and Sol were given for their originals.
Although Sol loves to play and create, he has a clear vision of at least his immediate future. “People ask me if I see music as a career. I don’t really think I want to take it to a pro level as a career. I already have an EP on iTunes, and I’m working on a full album. My interests are more in math and sciences. This fall, I’ll be attending my first year of high school at Phillip Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.”
Although he’s taking his mandolin and guitar along to school, “There are so many academic areas I’m interested in that I won’t have much time to take the music courses offered.”
His talent isn’t going to fade away anytime soon, though, and music has a way of permanently attaching itself to one’s future.
Bella admits with well-earned, smug joy, “I’ve sacrificed soccer and swimming for my music. I practice every day, so it takes time from my homework and any sports I could have done. But since I’ve been in music, it’s been everything to me, and I don’t miss anything that I’ve had to give up. It’s what I want to do with my life.” Rock on little sister …
Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living in Crested Butte. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous blogs, mags and rags. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not everyone can pull off “Fire on the Mountain,” be it in sound or action. Peace Officer learned its lesson from real mountain cops.
Not long after the hip-hop/reggae/dub crew formed in 2007, the artists stretched beyond their socially conscious vocab by playing with fire.
After a gig in Estes Park with a guest trumpet player, the Fort Collins-based crew proceeded to its comped resort suite. Around 3 a.m., they noticed the trumpet player and his young, loud pal had disappeared, something that relieved more than worried them — until the fire alarm went off.
“The player and his friend ran into our room with terrified looks on their faces, which were also covered in a gray powder,” said MC, guitarist and self-proclaimed nice guy Andy Kromarek.
Seems they set off the fire extinguisher, not thinking it would trigger an alarm (and apparently not considering consequences of the thick powder that would cover the entire hallway, either).
“Not a good scene,” nice-and-innocent guy said. “It looked like smoke in the air, and with the alarm going off and it being 3:30 or so, the other guests in the place were starting to freak out.”
What exactly does a cozy mountain retreat scene gone bad look like?
One scared-out-of-his-wits, fire-extinguisher-curious pal who erupts into tears and admits he’s only 17, so please, no one tell his mother — to which the Peace Officers replied, “We won’t, if you won’t tell her where you got the beer”.
One pissed-off mom of said 17-year-old in her pajamas (that’s all the description you want on this one) screaming she’s suing the resort because she tweaked her ankle in the mad rush to fresh mountain air,
One Honda with a trumpet in the back, squealing outta Estes as fast as it could, and
Just about every cop in Estes on site. (They may not have seen this much action since Stephen King insisted the second and more true-to-his book version of “The Shining” be filmed at the Stanley Hotel).
“At this point, things looked dire for the band, and with a few policemen striding toward us, we didn’t know what to expect,” Kromarek said. “Turns out they were amused by the whole thing — I guess Estes Park is generally a pretty boring place for a cop.” Still, the stickler cops wanted the name of the trumpet player. When the musicians claimed they didn’t know (“it was 4 a.m., and we were drunk, so that seemed like a good idea,” the MC said), the cops threatened them with paying for every guests’ hotel room — as well as the by-now-decidedly broken ankle in PJs. So they ratted their horn player out (once, not twice, for the Mountain Gazette world to read).
It seems cops come pre-cut with the urge to always get the last word in before letting young people loose; they are the smart-ass sages of safety. For me, it started at age 16 when I raced my neighbor-boy home (launching my parent’s Oldsmobile over a huge bump in the middle of a bridge, which resulted in a very large dent in the bottom of the gas tank). The cop who pulled me over left me with the resounding words: “Remember, a car is not a toy.” About a decade later, a Dillon, Colo., police officer pulled me over after I rolled through a stop sign (after, uh, speeding). When I told him I didn’t have my driver’s license on me because I was going skiing, he said, “Do you have your ski pass?” — to which I enthusiastically replied affirmatively and whipped it out, hoping it would give him the necessary clue he needed to confirm my nice-girl identity.
“You need a ski pass to ski, right?” he asked, looking me deeply in the eyes. I nodded. “Well, you need a driver’s license to drive.”
Needless to say, I missed that powder morning.
So what did the Estes Park cops leave the Peace Officers with?
“You know, you guys aren’t Led Zeppelin. You probably shouldn’t go around trashing hotels just yet.”
Though Westword magazine just nominated the crew the best hip-hop in Denver and Peace Officer is playing larger festivals like Soul Rebel Festival in Denver and venues like Boulder’s Fox Theater these days, they’re not singing, or playing with, Fire on the Mountain.
To catch Peace Officers, sans alarms, in the next two months, check out Star Bar in Park City, Utah Aug. 18 or Snake River Saloon in Keystone, Colo., Sept. 9-10.
Kimberly Nicoletti is the entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Silverthorne, Colo.
A new brewery opening is always good news, and having one take shape in the challenging economic environment of a mountain town is even better. This September, Telluride Brewing Company will open its doors in the Lawson Hill area of Telluride. A joint project between long-time Smuggler’s Brewpub head brewer Chris Fish and business partner Tommy Thatcher, TBC is intended to be a production brewery, with distribution of canned product and 22-ounce bombers to begin locally in southwest Colorado this fall. Tastings will be offered at the brewhouse, with the full lineup of TBC brews to be available at the Llama Restaurant and Pub on Main Street in town. The final decisions as to which styles of beer will be offered initially were not set at the time of writing, but Fish indicated that he thought a Rye Pale Ale might be the first out of the gates, as he has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival for that style of beer in the past. The grand opening celebration is planned for the week of Blues & Brews, and TBC will be pouring at the festival as well.
The 18th Annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival will take place September 16-18th in Town Park. The party really gets going during the grand tasting on Saturday, this year featuring 53 breweries from across the West. The musical lineup is slightly different than in years past, with Willie Nelson headlining, along with the Flaming Lips, Robert Cray, Big Head Todd, Dweezil Zappa and Moe. According to event press director Bill Kight, the intent this year was to attract a broader audience and then expose them to some serious blues musicians alongside less-traditional blues music. I personally consider Willie among the top three on my list of the greatest living Americans (the other two being Bob Dylan and Jimmy Carter), and hearing the mellow notes and bourbon-smooth sound of his guitar and voice flowing pure and true through the crisp fall air at 8,750 feet is reason enough to make the trip.
If you do go, be sure to stop in at the newly re-opened Baked in Telluride for some tasty goodies. Following a tragic fire that destroyed the entire building two years ago, owner Jerry Greene undertook the arduous task of rebuilding the establishment, a process completed this past June when the doors were opened in time for the summer season. Though he used to produce and serve his own beer, BIT now serves several styles from Smuggler’s on tap.
For some reason, September is the month to celebrate the greatest of all beer holiday, (and perhaps the greatest of all holidays, period), Oktoberfest. Based on a fairy tale originating from old Germany, the annual event, supposedly commemorating some dude’s wedding, is celebrated around the globe, and makes a wonderful excuse to get together with a couple thousand of your closest friends and neighbors to drink beer and eat brats in the streets of a friendly mountain town near you. Seriously, claiming meaning for Oktoberfest is about as ridiculous as the messenger of Easter being a magic egg-laying, long-eared mammal. Having attended my share of these celebrations in various locales across the West, I will call out the annual event held in Durango, Colorado, at the end of the month as my personal hometown favorite.
Up in Keystone, the 15th Annual Bluegrass and Beer Festival will take place August 6-7th at River Run Village. Featuring dozens of breweries, and tastings on both days of the event, this festival bears particular attention as bluegrass legend Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Band will play two full sets on Saturday, and a third on Sunday. A one-hour song-writing/guitar-picking workshop session with Peter is also on the schedule for Saturday morning. If you don’t know his history, as a young man, he was a member of the Bluegrass Boys backing up the grandfather of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. In the early ’70s, he, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn formed Old & In the Way, a traditional single-mic unit that began a bluegrass revolution that is still going strong today. I personally own and operate something like 50 albums and live recordings of his music spanning five decades, and make sure to get tickets whenever he comes to Colorado. At the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, he introduced his song, “Panama Red,” by saying, “Some people think this song is about drugs. Some people think that I take drugs. But I don’t need to take drugs … I AM ALL DRUGS.” Can I get a yee-haw to that!?
Erich Hennig, an avid home brewer, is the Four Corners correspondent for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. He lives in Durango, Colo.
In his third book, author and University of Colorado professor James McVey takes the reader along on his experiences in the backcountry — hiking, running rivers, backcountry skiing and fishing — and provides scholarly depth in each experience, weaving history, ecology and philosophy into classic nature writing. McVey draws on 20 years of venturing into Colorado’s backcountry, from places as popular as Boulder’s Chautaqua Park to the solitude of a post-rafting season run of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.
The collection of essays in “The Way Home” provides rich writing with a solid balance of adventure and nature, and the question of our place in all of it. McVey writes of a day of backcountry skiing on Wolf Creek Pass: “But the truth is, something else drives us out here to the geographic backbone of the continent. What lurks there in our tangled psyches? What genetic baggage left over from the days of sabertooths and woolly mammoths?” $19.95. uofupress.com