Time to get a little hot at Meltdown on the Mesa

by DGO Web Administrator

There are two kinds of music festivals. There’s the listening festival, which attendees go to for the music. The fans are generally well-behaved and respect when bands are on stage. Then there’s the hoot and holler festival, which adds to the music a grand social aspect, making the event about much more than just the acts taking the stage.

Both types of festival are worthy musical ventures, and you’ll find a crossover of the audiences at both types. You’ll always have a hoot and holler dude at a listening festival, and a listening fan doing some shushing at the hoot and holler festival.

The Durango Bluegrass Meltdown is a part of both festival worlds. They hold two festivals – one in April that is a listening event where fans sit and are requested to keep their traps shut while they take it all in. The other is this weekend’s “Meltdown on the Mesa. It’s a fundraiser for the spring festival, and is all about hooting and hollering.

The Meltdown on the Mesa will be held Saturday on Ewing Mesa, and this weekend’s event showcases bands from Colorado, while the April festival will draw bands from all over the country. It will feature Six-Dollar String Band, Smelter Mountain Boys, People We Know, Lost Souls, Stillhouse Junkies, La La Bones, and The Ginny Mules. With the exception of The Ginny Mules, who reside on the front range, all the other bands are local.

Having so many good bluegrass bands to choose from makes the board’s task of whittling down the huge wish-list a tough task. They are limited to selecting six or seven bluegrass bands for the Meltdown events, which requires narrowing down a group of musicians that runs wide and deep with talent. Colorado has been recognized as a state with a great music scene, and bluegrass is arguably the best representation of our state’s musical diversity.

That wish-list includes local talent, too. If you’ve paid attention to Durango’s bluegrass music scene long enough, you likely know that this town has many great bands, all of whom are eager to play a hometown event. These musicians have earned a lot of hype and a lot of press – which is far from fake news – and all eyes and ears are turned toward them.

“Durango is a hotbed for bluegrass musicians,” said Jenny Hirt, vice president of Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. “We are lucky that we have several folks who ask to play at this event, and our April event, every year.”

Keenan Copple, banjo player for The Ginny Mules, was raised with a love of the blues, but fell into bluegrass after moving to Colorado, where Copple became intrigued by the inviting, accepting, and flat-out fun nature of the bluegrass community.

The Ginny Mules have great respect for the bluegrass bands that came before them, and the band keeps that in mind as they forge their own way and create their own sound – a sound they describe as “blues-grass.” It’s a style with a bit of blues, a bit of bluegrass, and a strong instrumentation. The sound is layered with subtle twang undertones and an upbeat drive, along with the technical proficiency of newgrass.

Still, while that blues-grass style may set them apart, The Ginny Mules’ harmonies, which come from a band made up of nearly all women, that are their ace in the hole.

Copple said that their mission statement about “playing music with other people because it’s fun” is the band’s guiding force. They keep it in mind as they write and play original music, and as they navigate a music scene full of hot players.

“We always just tried to sound like ourselves, not so much because we’re so enamored with our own sound, but because you know I can practice till I’m blue in the face, and I’m never going to sound better than Earl Scruggs,” said Copple. “I don’t think we try to emulate any Colorado bluegrass sound, but Colorado sure isn’t a bad place to be from.”

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

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