The local jam-grass fans have really grabbed onto this one, and for good reason. In a relatively short amount of time, Durango’s Liver Down the River has escalated into a full-blown festival jam-band. Following in the path of other famed Colorado jam-grass outfits Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band, the six-piece band that uses bluegrass as their base while exploring funk and rock, has been selling out local shows and performing regional festivals, all while riling the hippie kids into a twirling and hula-hooping frenzy.
It’s as good as it gets in the jam-grass world, and they’re genuine as hell.
Liver Down the River will perform a two-night run Friday and Saturday (Oct. 14/15) at the Animas City Theatre.
It’s a festival and music discovery-tale that started a few years back at Fort Lewis College. Mandolin player Patrick Storen met fiddle player and vocalist Emily Aguirre-Winter in the Bader-Snyder dorms; they played together then started picking bluegrass. Bass player Derek Abt met members via a group house in town, and banjo player Dylan Ruckel met Storen before becoming a Durango resident via campground picks at the Yarmony Grass Festival on the Front Range. The lineup solidified with Dylan Ruckel on guitar and vocals and Carter Colia on drums.
It’s no secret that, for a while, Colorado has been home to bands that fall into the realm of jam-grass. The aforementioned, long-tenured bands based around the Front Range – especially Boulder and Nederland – has, for years, been looked upon as purveyors of the genre on a nationwide level. That’s certainly OK to aspire to, as bands of this nature enjoy long-term festival success due to die-hard fans, fans who have been provided memorable musical experiences via club show or festival. They’re also able to mix it up onstage with straight-up funk and rock players or right alongside some of the traditional players in American bluegrass. It’s a close-knit camp, and Liver Down the River is setting themselves up to carry the torch.
“We are Liver Down the River,” said Abt, “but we embody the same crowd, the same musical style as String Cheese or Leftover; those guys are the community we want to be in.”
They are moving in the right direction. Both of those long-term bands have been in and out of Durango for years. String Cheese dates back into the ’90s with shows at the old Summit, Smiley Building and Henry Strater Theatre. Leftover Salmon continues to be a town-draw now going on 20-some years. If a torch would be passed, it should come to Durango to a gang of musicians that keep it real onstage and then aren’t afraid to keep it going in a campground or by the side of a river until the wee hours; that’s part of the allure, the providing of an experience via two nights of fun.
“Other bands that have done two-night runs in Durango include Leftover Salmon and Nahko & Medicine for the People. These are hot bands on the scene,” said Abt. “The fact that we’ve sold out our last three shows at the ACT means that people really want more. We’re beyond stoked to be able to go from struggling to get opening acts to headlining our own two-nighter at our favorite venue.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]