Grass-roots indie music fest takes Durango by storm

by David Holub

The second annual iAM MUSIC Fest isn’t about securing world-famous big name acts like Pearl Jam (who headlined Ride in Telluride last month). Organizer and iAM MUSIC co-founder Jesse Ogle compares it to an indie film festival with low-budget, high-quality passion projects. The three-day grass-roots music festival will run from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Saturday, Aug. 20, exposing Durangoans to authentic musicians. “There’s no agenda, there’s no management company telling them what to do,” said Ogle. “They’re making all these decisions.” The 20+ participating bands, visual artists and performing artists can collaborate and network with each other, furthering their burgeoning careers.

So why pay money to see musicians you’ve never heard of? “Why go travel?” Ogle countered. “Why not just stay in Durango? Do you want to seek something new out, have an experience you haven’t had before?” If you’d prefer to check out some of the bands ahead of time, there’s a SoundCloud page on iAM MUSIC’s website.

There is a space and event for everyone, depending on your festival style. “If you like sitting on a lawn and throwing down a blanket, Saturday is your day,” said Ogle. “There’s more music on Saturday than any other day. The stage at Buckley and at the Smiley, it’s set up to walk back and forth really easily. It’s meant to keep you moving a little bit. If you like having an experience that’s really intimate, Friday is your night at Animas Trading Co., the iAM MUSIC stage and Craft Spirits outdoor stage. The Rochester is where we kick off, that’s a nice vibe if you like to sit down and just listen to things. Same with the ACT. And if you’re someone who likes to get down and dance, the late night stages are good for you. Some people are featured twice in the festival, so you can choose when you want to see them.”

The festival is affordable and boasts a ton of local sponsors (including DGO), indicating an immense community effort. “We really don’t have a music festival here,” Ogle said. “We have one-off shows and the Bluegrass Meltdown, but that’s genre-specific. So we’re offering an experience Durango doesn’t have.” Here, Ogle shares some details about the musical stylings of these festival bands. For venues and showtimes, visit

A rundown of the performersHello, Dollface (Durango) Genre: Neo soul + experimental R&B

Performing: Thurs./Sat.

Imaginario Circus (Durango)Genre: Circus & variety troupe, aerial, dance, burlesque

Jesse says: “Durango’s only theatrical show. Anything from a mime to silks to lyra to play-like stuff. They’ll be collaborating with Hello, Dollface on a few songs.”

Performing: Sat.

Captain Squeegee (Phoenix)Genre: Metaphysical rock

Jesse says: “An eight-piece prog rock, holy-shit-oh-my-god type of band. Very theatrical. Frank Zappa-ish.”

Performing: Fri.

Rossonian (Denver)Genre: Electro-sensual rock & roll

Jesse says: “They finished No. 8 in the Tiny Desk concert series for NPR. They’re super hip, indie rock with great vocals that are very soulful. Almost Stevie Wonder-esque, but with a rock-driven thing. They’re really our biggest featured rock act at the fest.”

Performing: Sat.

Chimney Choir (Denver)Genre: Avant pop & Americana

Jesse says: “A very unique folk-electronic act.”

Performing: Fri.

Fresh Noise (Denver)Genre: Future R&B

Jesse says: “A band featuring Mikey Smith and Joseph Lamar, two pretty well-known Denver acts. Prince-like. Soul, groove.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Miller & the Other Sinners (Rochester, NY)Genre: Blues/gospel

Jesse says: “They are gospel and soul. The guy David Miller has an album out right now; it’s in the top of the blues charts even though they’re more gospel.”

Performing: Sat.

Ve (Los Angeles)Genre: Hip-hop

Jesse says: “A hip-hop artist and author and lyricist.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Katie Haverly & the Aviary (Tucson, AZ)Genre: Jazz folk

Jesse says: “A songwriter, folk soul Americana. Joined by Ben Nisbet, first chair violinist of the Tucson Symphony. Katie is really getting a lot of headway in Tucson, she’s one of the top female artists down there. The band is kind of Joni Mitchell in some respects, then will go really funky. She’s always doing eclectic projects.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Eldergrown (Durango)Genre: Funk roots rock

Jesse says: “One of our local, famous bands. Three brothers who formed a group. Funk and disco and jam.”

Performing: Sat.

Andre Rodriguez (Phoenix)Genre: Songwriter, soul, reggae

Jesse says: “A soul and reggae musician out of Phoenix. Phenomenal vocalist. I’m surprised he’s not famous.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

At Play (Boulder)Genre: Experimental electronic

Jesse says: “An electronic dance group. They do two-piece drums and play trumpet. It’s really cool.”

Performing: Fri.

House of Stairs (Phoenix)Genre: Future soul jazz

Jesse says: “They’re a female-led band, pretty dynamic. They fit into this R&B jazz realm but they do a lot of cool rearrangements of ’90s songs, and they’re pretty eclectic in their original stuff.”

Performing: Thurs./Fri/Sat.

Let Them Roar (Carbondale)Genre: Mountain folk

Jesse says: “A phenomenal band. They’re like folk, pop, jazz, Americana. They blend a lot of different stuff, with a lot of good vocal harmonies.”

Performing: Sat.

Delaney Davis (Ruidoso, NM)Genre: Acoustic, folk, soul

Jesse says: “She’s a songwriter touring with her second album. She does looping and some vocal harmonizing stuff.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Brandon McIntosh and Josh Humphrey (Seattle)Genre: Hindustani & North Indian

Jesse says: “These are two of our featured musicians that are very eclectic. Brandon runs the Seattle Raga Institute. I’ve never heard of a North Indian group coming to town since I’ve lived here!”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Afrobeatniks (Durango)Genre: AfroCuban + Latin

Jesse says: “They do Afrobeat music. Almost all original compositions. Really great full horn section.”

Performing: Fri.

Chava People (Durango)Genre: Indie rock, funk

Jesse says: “They’re like reggae, funk, soul.”

Performing: Sat.

Wake Up Laughing (Mancos)Genre: Reggae rock

Jesse says: “Local band out of Cortez and Mancos. Funk, reggae, rock.”

Performing: Fri.

Disco Organica (Eugene, OR)Genre: Disco, jazz, funk

Jesse says: “I’m going to be playing bass with them, and Ashley [Edwards] will be sitting in as well. They’re a disco funk project.”

Performing: Thurs./Fri./Sat.

Seth Evans (Denver)Genre: Freak pop, songwriter

Jesse says: “Soul and pop and indie.”

Performing: Fri.

Cannondolls (Durango)Genre: Country, Americana

Jesse says: “Our local girl heroes.”

Performing: Fri.

Sans Pagaie (Phoenix)Genre: Jazz, experimental groove

Jesse says: “A straight-up, heavy-hitting jazz quintet.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Jillian & the Giants (Tucson, AZ)Genre: Folk, Americana, pop

Performing: Fri./Sat.

Lisa Byrne (Durango)Genre: Sound healing + didgeridoo

Performing: Sat.

Ben Sharf (Eugene, OR)Genre: Songwriter, folk, soul, jazz

Jesse says: “He’s a soul pop keyboardist.”

Performing: Fri.

J Pop (Tucson, AZ)Genre: Instrumental, hip-hop

Jesse says: “A solo drum project with electronics.”

Performing: Fri.

Russick Smith (Breckenridge)Genre: Ambient cello pop

Jesse says: “He’s very eclectic, plays with loops and backing tracks and also plays a lot of other instruments like squeezebox and bass.”

Performing: Fri./Sat.

iAM MUSIC students (Durango)Songwriters & band Styles

Jesse says: “A band from a workshop from the summer. They do everything from Led Zeppelin to Bob Marley to John Legend.”

Performing: Sat.

Non-music events Soundhealing and YogaAbout: Bring a mat and relax stageside. Music with Lisa Byrne and yoga led by Michelle Lawrence.

Jesse says: “Lisa runs Epic Magazine and she also plays didgeridoo. It’s kicking the day off up at the Smiley courtyard in the grass.”

When: Sat.

Living Artist Garden About: Garden open to all creators, all mediums, or bring your existing work to sell. Easels available. Bring your supplies or use supplies on hand. Paint must be water-soluble.

When: Sat.

Experimental Storytelling with David Holub About: In his make-you-laugh-or-make-you-cry style, Holub tells the irreverently hilarious truish story, “Dispatches from My Maiden Visit to Washington, D.C. (and The Indian Food That Almost Killed Me).” David is a writer, performer and the Editor and Creative Director at DGO magazine.

When: Fri./Sat.

Creative Workshops at iAM MUSIC InstituteVocal Toolbox, a vocal workshopAbout: Foundational vocal performance workshop.

Presenter: Ashley Edwards of Hello, Dollface, founder of iAM MUSIC

When: Sat.

Hip Hop Entrepreneur, “artistpreneurship”About: South Central Los Angeles native Ve gives insights on how to work the music industry from multiple angles.

Presenter: Rodve Lewis, author and performer Ve

When: Sat.

Why Storytelling Matters, writing and performingAbout: Discussing the ingredients of a good story, why storytelling is valuable as an art form and how it connects us through the human experience.

Presenter: David Holub, writer, performer and DGO magazine

When: Sat.

Hindustani, North Indian ethnic music About: Learn the basic principles of Hindustani Music of India. The concepts of raag (melody) and taal (rhythm) will be introduced, with examples and demonstrations of the stringed instrument sarod and the tabla drums.

Presenters: Brandon Mcintosh and Josh Humphrey of Seattle Raga Institute

When: Sat.


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