The idea of the “super-group” is at times defined as musicians from different, one-time successful bands coming together to write and record new music. In some circles, this can be classic rock people or other musicians from bands on the state fair circuit. I will add to that definition “seekers of a cash-grab,” or musicians coming together in an effort for some extended glory whose fans have outgrown the music, or just been tired and bored by the sounds that have defined their earlier success.
I wouldn’t call The Contingents a “super-group” in the aforementioned sense, as its members come from the music-first community of Colorado festival bands, bands with a mindset of music at any and all hours; recognition can come later and if it doesn’t that’s cool, too. I would call them a super-group because its three members from Leftover Salmon and The Yonder Mountain String Band, not the most tenured musicians from those storied Colorado bands, but certainly musically versed in their own right and always in pursuit of genre exploration that has been a stamp of the Front Range, bluegrass-based jam-bands beloved in the festival world and beyond.
The Contingents, made up of the Leftover Salmon rhythm section that is bass player Greg Garrison and drummer Alwyn Robinson, and Jacob Joliff, the mandolin player from Yonder Mountain String Band, will perform Saturday at The Balcony Backstage.
The trio was born via conversation between Garrison and Joliff backstage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where musicians rub elbows when not on stage.
“He cooked up the idea of trying to go at it together as a trio,” said Garrison. “Jake is an amazing mandolin player, and Alwyn is my favorite drummer to play with, which is great. I get to do it all the time in Leftover Salmon. This will be a nice opportunity to kind of stretch out and play some different material and get inside Jake’s head a little bit, which I’m excited to do.”
For a definition of what these three will play, expect cuts that would be heard in the sets of their full-time bands, along with a musical curveball thrown here and there. The bluegrass-based bands they belong to always explore other genres, from the improvisation of jazz to a crowd-friendly cover.
“I think we’ll be able to stay in a pretty interesting range, from nice, simple folk tunes but all the way to some relatively complex, instrumental, jazz-oriented acoustic music, too,” said Garrison.
Joliff studied at Berklee, Robinson studied percussion in college and Garrison teaches Music Entertainment and Industry Studies at the University of Colorado. As students or teachers of music, they continue a pursuit of both its art and role in the overall world of popular or not-so-popular culture. The larger scene they play in continues to attract a perennial fan base present at annual shows or festivals; fans are there, and side projects satisfy a personal musical exploration.
“Obviously it’s an amazing thing to be in Leftover or YMSB,” said Garrison. “But it’s nice at times be able to create our own little world within this bigger jam community that we all know and love, and are thrilled to be a part of. But we step away and can jump into another band and put the focus on the music that we’re all about collectively, it’s cool and exciting.”