I recently put my brain through the wringer trying to recollect some of the better shows I’ve caught in town. It seems a lot of great independent stuff came through in the ’00s, while the late ’90s was dominated by jam grass and a couple great appearances by the legendary Maceo Parker at the now-defunct venue that sat inside The Iron Horse Inn just north of town.
The Durango Bluegrass Meltdown stands on its own with being the most consistent provider of all around great sets from regional and national touring musicians, with highlights being whenever Town Mountain took the stage at three different Meltdowns.
That said, here are a selection of my own personal Durango show highlights:
John PrineDec. 7, 2004, Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis CollegePrine sold out the venue quick, and his performance was poignant, funny, and jam-packed with all the tear-jerkers and lyrically humorous tunes this great American songwriter is known for.
The WhipsawsFeb. 20, 2008, The SummitIt was a random Wednesday and Alaska’s Whipsaws had just gotten a short write-up in “No Depression” magazine. Their set was one of the best two musical hours I’ve witnessed, as they blasted through what was an open marriage of Black Flag, Uncle Tupelo and Molly Hatchet. There were about a dozen people there, but two more appearances in 2008 at The Summit were played to packed houses.
Murder by DeathSept. 2009, Abbey TheatreOriginal and unique, this Indianapolis indie-roots-goth band featured lap steel, cello, and a bunch of original tunes. Town came out for a weeknight, and once again revealed there are many music fans in Durango who fly below the radar.
The English BeatSept. 7, 2013, Ska BrewerySka Anniversary parties make Durango the center of the universe. Dave Wakeling and The English Beat have penned a hook or 30 on numerous albums, and they all were played that Saturday evening in Bodo Park.
Punk Rock BreakfastDec. 22, 2001, StoryvilleSomeone had a great idea; it involved a cheap breakfast, cheaper drinks, and punk rock on a Sunday morning. The house band was punk band The Thirteens, and all those who attended are better people for it. Vocalist Erik Mischker was always a dynamic frontman, but at one point in this show, he was in the crowd and shouting from the rafters.
The GourdsOct. 5, 2007, Abbey TheatreThe Gourds managed to hit multiple stages over multiple years in Durango, but this show stands out, as it was my birthday. The Jimmy Smith classic “County Orange” was played, and for some reason Kev “Shinyribs” Russell dedicated a cover of R. Kelly’s “Feelin’ on Yo Booty” to me. I’ll take it.
Marty Stuart and the Fabulous SuperlativesMarch 28, 2012, Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis CollegeA band should be able to bang out classic country, rockabilly, blues and bluegrass all in one swoop. Stuart is no slouch on the guitar himself, but the night went to guitar player Kenny Vaughn and his Fender Telecaster.
David Hidalgo and Louis PerezApril 16, 2008, Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis CollegeIt was a storyteller type of night from two founding members of Los Lobos; they dug into some stripped-down Los Lobos classics, discussed the songs, and discussed growing up in East L.A. and digging on bands like N.R.B.Q.
There were also multiple Del McCoury shows, The Meat Puppets, Slim Cessna, Agent Orange, Supersuckers, and Drag the River. Hell, even Bernie Worrell of Parliament/Funkadelic fame played a set at the old San Juan Room where he kissed me on the forehead. Support live music.