Blues, Brews and the Big Easy

by Ted Holteen

Every year, there are a few weekends during which you may find yourself asking, “Where are all my friends?” or “Where is everybody?” if you don't really have any friends. It happens during Telluride Bluegrass, some holidays and, if you're really lucky, that awful soccer shootout weekend what with all those damn kids and all. This is one of those weekends, thankfully without the damn kids. I don't like kids. They should be few and far between in Telluride this weekend, as The Telluride Blues and Brews Festival loosens things up in a town that used to be among the loosest in the U.S.A. Now, it's Telluride. But time was, one could wander aimlessly about the mountain hamlet, drinkin' and smokin' and generally carousing, with no one to answer to but a hippie or two trying to score a buzz. I mean, Rasta Stevie used to be a Town Council member up there. Hearken back to those days of yesteryear with three days of live music in the park interrupted briefly by three hours of beer “tasting” on Saturday afternoon. And the music is good. Sure, big names like B.B. King, Government Mule (with Gregg Allman) and The Neville Brothers will bring in the crowds, but so will the beer. I swore off B.B. even before he started doing Burger King commercials, but I'm looking forward to some of the second and third bill performers. They include Elvin Bishop, Edgar Winter, Shemekia Copeland, Anders Osborne and Lonnie Brooks. Note that all of these are actually blues musicians, a fact that shouldn't be lost when discussing a blues festival. There are still tickets available, sort of, but it's confusing. Go to and figure it out.

If you just can't get away this weekend, or you don't want to spend your mortgage payment on a condo for two days, you can catch a preview on Thursday night at the Abbey Theatre. Papa Mali , who will play on Friday in Telluride with Richard Johnston, gets a head start with a late-night solo show here in Durango. Mali, born Malcolm Welbourne in the Shreveport, La., area, is different. He's a hyper-high energy slide guitarist who usually performs as part of a trio, but I don't know if they'll be accompanying him or not. That's why I referred to it as a solo show. Either way, I will put my reputation on the line and give this one my full endorsement. Here's yet another plea to support live music in Durango. If Chubby Checker can bring in 800 souls, how about a couple of hundred for a national act making new and creative sounds? Do the right thing.

Sticking with the Louisiana theme, albeit about a hundred miles south, the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall welcomes New Orleans legends the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Saturday night. This is the real deal. The PHJB embodies everything about The Big Easy but the beads-for-breasts exchange program. That said, ladies, feel free to prove me wrong. Anyway, get used to good things happening at the Concert Hall, as this is just one of a slew of top-notch acts that Gary Penington and his staff have lined up for the year. It's not Dixieland, but real New Orleans jazz, and the musicians range in age from thirty-somethings to 80-plus. I don't know how Preservation Hall will get by without them while they're on tour, but it doesn't happen every week, so take advantage of this opportunity. It really is very special.

Saturday also gives me an opportunity to finally tell you about one of the best local bands that Durango has to offer. Satyrica doesn't usually show up for some of the white bread events that attract so many local acts (not that there's anything wrong with that), saving themselves for the occasional chance to give an audience a well-deserved musical ass-kicking. Saturday night at The Summit is one of those chances. Satyrica plays metal the way metal is supposed to be played: loud, scary, offensive and generally destructive. And frontman Russ Hallock has the tools – ripping guitar and disturbingly powerful vocals. They've got a CD – “Memories of the Future” – and another one in the works. Shut the #^*% up and support local music.

I should have brought this up earlier, but that's why you read the whole article. Come into the Abbey on Friday night and say hello to the new owners, Brad and Erika Merlino. It's kind of a housewarming party for a really cool house, and The Badly Bent and The Wild Blooms will dispel that awkward silence that can really be a buzzkill at parties. Bluegrass aficionados need no sales pitch for these regional favorites, and I'm almost sorry that I'll be in Telluride to miss the festivities. Almost. I imagine that Brad and Erika are inundated with suggestions as to what sort of entertainment would be best for the Abbey, so please give them a break, enjoy the music and keep your opinions to yourself, if just for one night.

My latest Superbowl pick? Eagles over Broncos! Stay tuned for weekly changes of heart.

Who do you have to insult in this town to get some hate mail? . Vote yes on 37. (Look it up)




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