Fertile music ground: The great Colorado bands and musicians

by DGO Web Administrator

Colorado is fertile musical ground. It’s birthed some major musical players, while others have settled here and ended up calling it home. Jam band and bluegrass may be dominant Colorado genres, but the state also churns out cow-punk and alternative country and claims two members of a classic punk band and The Denver Sound. So, for this column, local and regional musicians to DJs divulge who and what they think are the best about Colorado’s music scene.

“Glenn Miller is a notable musician from the Centennial State. The Astronauts were a Boulder surf band in the early sixties. It’s hard to imagine the mountain bluegrass scene without Hot Rize. More recent Colorado bands that I consider influential include Beautiful Loser Society, Halden Wofford & The Hi-Beams, The Railbenders, Drag the River, Amazing Larry, The Crags, DeVotchKa, The Fluid, Rose Hill Drive, FY5, Armchair Martian, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, 16 Horsepower, and Gina Go Faster.” – Erik Nordstrom, guitar player and vocalist for Durango’s Farmington Hill and Lawn Chair Kings.

“When someone tells me they like my playing because it’s tasteful, my standard issue case of musician’s crippling self-doubt reads ‘has mediocre chops.’ When someone introduces me as ‘he plays with everybody,’ I know it really means ‘will play with anybody.’ But when I think of Nick Forster and the thirty plus years I’ve been watching him play, I think those things and I mean it. After all, his job since 1991, when eTown came on air, is to play with everybody. When I first saw Hot Rize in the summer of 1985, I couldn’t have imagined that one day I’d share the stage on paid gigs with one of the guys up there, much less call one a friend. But that’s happened, and I can’t think of anyone who has contributed more to my own musical growth, or who better represents Colorado.” – Greg Schochet, guitar player for Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams.

“I think the most influential Colorado bands of the past three decades – and the ones most influenced by that seventies Colorado hippie/redneck culture – are Leftover Salmon, The Railbenders, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Open Road and Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams. Salmon carries the jam band torch. The Railbenders hold traditional honky tonk dear to their hearts. Slim Cessna carries the tradition of gothic country. Open Road, which had their final concerts before breaking up at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown in 2006, was a traditional bluegrass band. And the Hi-Beams tie it all together, from classic country to rock to bluegrass. If I had to pick a local band that best exemplifies the Colorado sound, it’s the Lawn Chair Kings. Nordstrom, Leek and company are basically punks with a soft spot for twang. To me, no local musician better exemplifies this than LCK drummer Patrick Dressen, who I’ve seen pick guitar, mandolin, and beat the drums in countless local bluegrass, folk, Celtic and rock ensembles for the past three decades.” – Chris Aaland, a KSUT DJ who has booked tons of shows in the area.

“John Moore was very influential to me. I saw him play in Bluegrass Etc. at the first Four Corners Folk Fest and at the Durango Meltdown. I’d never seen anyone shred guitar and mandolin like that. I immediately started practicing all day long. And Benny ‘Burle’ Galloway! I learned a ton about playing and writing music from Burle.” – Robin Davis, Pagosa Springs guitar player and member of the award-winning bluegrass band Broke Mountain.

“ALL and The Descendants are, in my opinion, the most important band in Colorado. We’re lucky to have them. Beyond their obviously influential discography and one-of-a-kind sound, they have mentored countless bands regionally and internationally. Helping bands document their music in their own studio, THE BLASTING ROOM, and literally living by example and pioneering in a proper DIY way.” – Jon Snodgrass, guitar player and vocalist from Armchair Martian and Drag the River out of Fort Collins.

The experts have spoken.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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