Durango’s location has never been the greatest asset to attracting national touring bands, being 215 miles north of I-40, and 168 miles south of I-70. When some of the larger club or theater acts are out on the road, they’re steering clear of towns that lie between larger markets, favoring others cities for a Friday or Saturday night show offering a larger crowd and paycheck.
That doesn’t mean we’re not supportive of music. I’ll pat Durango on the back when it comes to the number of people that have killer record collections and an appreciation of many-things-independent, in addition to the number of people here making music. It’s only gotten stronger since I pulled into town in 1996.
Supporting music is a difficult, if not pricey and unpredictable venture. It’s really a gamble. People that see Bob Dylan are more than aware that they’re playing a game of concert roulette. Never have so many people gone into a performance guaranteeing themselves that they’re about to see something that could be completely lame. When Dylan played with My Morning Jacket in Telluride in 2007, 90 percent of the people I knew attending at one point or another said to me, “this could very well suck.” I was part of that 90 percent. You sure as shit wouldn’t go to a respected restaurant, walk in and sit down and expect it to be terrible. But that’s what you get with seeing arguably the greatest songwriter of this or any generation, whose live performances have been spotty since day one.
The idea that no good music comes to Durango could be as old as the town itself. An old-timer once told me the music scene sucked because Cab Calloway didn’t come here in 1951. Yet Durango has still hosted acts like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, X, Los Lobos on many occasions, The Sadies, Agent Orange and The Supersuckers, Hank3, Janis Ian, The Gourds, The Fort Knox Five, Aesop Rock, RZA, and hundreds of other acts from all genres. Durango hosts a top-notch classical music festival that is underway right now, the Ska Anniversary Party is the musical and social event of the year, and the Bluegrass Meltdown is fantastic.
It seems some people like the memories more than they like music, chasing a love of the social setting than the sounds coming from the stage. That’s why you’ll have people travel to Telluride every third weekend in June, or to Red Rocks and beyond or to other festivals that lie in cities and towns around the region, because for some the experience is just as, or more important than the music.
Despite the fact that Durango does indeed host lots of live music, I’ll have to travel to see The Black Lips, or The Drive-By Truckers, or Wilco; that’s just an obvious reality for all who live here, and if you think otherwise you’re kidding yourself. Sometimes a band won’t take the chance to come down here, and sometimes promoters won’t take a chance on booking a band people may or may not come to see. Putting on a show is risky and expensive. While I am zipping off to see Neko Case or Queens of the Stone Age, I’ll do so knowing that Durango continues to offer more live music itself than a lot of places. We get many up-and comers that will eventually blow Durango off for larger cities, so go see them now. Music is food so eat the good stuff.