Battle of the Bands, competitive jazz and a week at the movies

Before entering into a discussion of the 5th annual Durango Film Festival, it should be noted that I don't really enjoy movies. Of course, there are exceptions, but on the whole I find them to be little more than a creative outlet for some of the strangest and often most pretentious people in the art world who at some point in their lives have likely been called "brooding." Now we call them "filmmakers." My personal tastes notwithstanding, our little festival is turning into quite an annual event for the medium, and this year more than 100 films will be shown at the Abbey Theatre, the Gaslight and the Durango Arts Center. Shorts, features, student productions, documentaries, animation - if it can be put on a reel, you can see it this week. As I find no better way to judge a book than by its cover, I select films based on their titles. And there are some great ones: "Baptists at Our Barbecue," "Elephant Shoes" and "Food Chain Inversion" are just a few that catch my eye. It remains to be seen, however, if I will actually catch a film this year. Strangely enough, they seem to do just fine without me every time. The festival starts Friday night and runs straight through next weekend, and the full schedule is available in this week's Telegraph, at any of the venues or online at

Speaking of films, those masters of haute couture whom we call The Mug Club will set the bar high for the visiting cinematographers descending on our town. On Friday night, it's Mug Club Movie Night at the Abbey featuring the critically-acclaimed ski documentary "Hot Dog." It's a poignant look at ski bumming in Aspen in the 1980s, and if memory serves and the movie fits the template, then a quiet yet determined underdog will race the local hotshot for all the marbles and a pretty girl and maybe even save the town from a ruthless developer. Friends of Wolf Creek should take notes and then put forth their own hot dog to challenge Red McCombs for the aforementioned marbles. Or for 10 bucks (plus gas money), I'll sucker punch him in the back of the head next time he's in town. The Mug Club Movie Night organizers have terrible taste in films, so expect an evening of unparalleled joy. And there's beer.

No four words can conjure up images of Camaros and Stroh's 30-packs like "Battle of the Bands." At least that's how I remember those magical nights in the '80s, chock full of George Thorogood and Skynyrd covers and lots of big hair. I never liked those nights. But this is a new millennium, and this weekend at The Summit a new generation of hopefuls will compete over two nights for the coveted title of Durango's Best Band. I guess that's the title - I've never seen the trophy. I don't know who will be in it, how one enters or any other details, but as an audience member your responsibility ends with walking in the door and maybe casting a vote, so the less you know the better. What it does preclude, however, is the prediction of a winner on my part. But that's OK, as I wouldn't want to prejudice the judges. I further speculate that Friday night will be an elimination round, with the finalists returning to the stage Saturday. That's how I would do it, anyway.

A slightly more dignified competition is under way today, March 3, on the Fort Lewis College campus. The college is holding its annual Jazz Festival, which lasts a decidedly un-festival-like one day. As you're reading this, 17 high school jazz ensembles from throughout the Four Corners are competing for the right to play tonight with legendary jazz drummer Peter Erskine at the Concert Hall. Erskine played on five records with Weather Report in the '70s and '80s and has also performed with the likes of Chick Corea, Joni Mitchell and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Erskine, as well as local saxophonist Jeff Solon and FLC alumni, will be giving workshops all day while the schools fight it out, so it's kind of a full day of music. Last year's lucky winners were from Farmington, an area just inside the circulation radius of The Telegraph, so we hope they lose. The big show with Peter Erskine and the winning ensemble is tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Allow me to reveal yet another layer of gross ignorance as I take a stab at getting a grasp on Celtic music. The FLC Concert Hall welcomes Colcannon on Saturday night, a group that apparently mixes traditional and contemporary Celtic styles. While I may not be able to differentiate between the two without liner notes, I have progressed past the stage when I thought that all Celtic music inevitably leads to Riverdancing. I'm also a sucker for green eyes. This is another of those shows where those in the know are excited, so there must be something to it. Showtime is at 7 p.m., with the bar conveniently opening an hour earlier. They are Irish, after all.

Tell me something - anything. I'm swearing off birthdays for at least another year.



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