Bier, bull, Bavaria and blues

by Lindsay Nelson

Summer is over. Might as well face it – the hills around Durango are painted in hues of rust and gold, high country aspen trees blaze yellow on the mountainsides and our tomatoes are freezing on the vine. Rather than bemoaning summer’s fleet passing, or pining for waist-deep winter snow, let’s kick it Kraut style at the San Juan Citizens Alliance Oktoberfest.

This two-day, second-annual fundraising festival takes over two blocks of downtown Durango on Main Ave. between 9th and 11th streets, all day Saturday on into Sunday afternoon. It brings with it a couple of firsts – the first brand-name musical act to perform on the free Main Avenue stage is Drew Emmitt at 5 p.m. Saturday, and (as far as we know) the first mechanical bull-riding attraction on Main. (The Society Page is much too proper to insert an inappropriate witticism about bulls, machines and cowboys.) Don’t worry, pardner, this won’t hurt a bit …

The bulk of the weekend’s entertainment is free or practically free, with optional money-spending opportunities that will support San Juan Citizens Alliance and their mission of protecting wild lands, wildlife, rivers, natural resources and civil rights. Enjoy the mechanized bovine, fine beers from all four local brewers (including special Oktoberfest brews), authentic Bavarian food from The Berliner restaurant of Oxford-town and other local eateries such as Sunnyside Meats and Skinny’s. Should be plenty of ‘wursts and a generous helping of “freedom cabbage” to wash down the bier. Visit the “kinderplatz,” an area for children and families to play, with games from the Children’s Museum, pumpkin carving, mini golf, a beer dunk tank (this is different from a beer drunk tank) and a Klackers tournament that begins at 1 p.m.

But the biggest and most consistent draw of the day will be hours upon hours of live bands on the 9th & Main stage. From 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., enjoy live music by bands you know such as Lawn Chair Kings, Freewill Recovery, Beautiful Losers, and the Frank Trio, and some you may not, including polka bands The Alpiners, Die Hurst, Alte Kameraden and more. The night-time music starts at 8 p.m. with the Lawn Chair Kings at Carver’s, opening the Pub Crawl – five performers, four venues, and one $20 ticket for the whole shebang. There’s Felonious Groove at Steamworks, Warsaw at the Summit, Benny Galloway & Wayward Sons at 8:30, followed by Drew Emmitt at 10 p.m. at the Abbey.

On Sunday morning, rise and shine for the jaegerfreuhstueck (that’s a “hunter’s breakfast,” Hank), from 9:30-11 a.m. on Main. At $5 for adults and $3 for kids, it is just about the cheapest hot breakfast (of potato pancakes, sausages, rolls, coffee, etc.) you can get on a Sunday morning in this town. It’ll be delicious, though the very mention of the word “jaeger” may send tremors into the bellies of many a Saturday night pub crawler.

The fun continues into the afternoon Sunday, with a prize drawing for the official Oktoberfest 1970 VW bug car (sign up to win at 1st National Bank). Warsaw closes the show on Sunday afternoon. And that’s Oktoberfest — solely responsible for the weekend’s much-need infusion of endless German nouns, scads of polkas and other exciting musical expressions, mechanical bull-riding right out in public and what The Society Page can only imagine will be a ponderous load of sauerkraut ‘n’ bier gas on Sunday night. Hey’ it’s better than train smoke, ennit?

Drew Emmitt

If you’re afraid of pub crawlers, but yearn for some good music, hike to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College Saturday night and hear indie blues/R&B pianist Kelley Hunt live at 7:30 p.m. The show benefits the La Plata Family Centers Coalition. Riding high on the release of her second record, New Shade of Blue, which debuted at #9 on the Billboard charts, Hunt is hailed by Denver’s Westword as “the freshest slant on classic R&B you’re likely to hear these days. She’s a tough woman who makes a hip and burly sound.” Word.

Rickie Lee Jones, that hipster icon of the long hair and the Grammy awards, plays the Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 5 at 7 p.m. Jones made an indelible mark in the music world with the success of her scat-flavored hit “Chuck E’s In Love.” She and Tom Waits were an item once long ago, and her three-disc anthology proves that she hasn’t been lying around in any laurels these past 25 years.

Singer-songwriter, guitarist and shrink Lucy Kaplansky returns to Durango for a Sunday night show at the Diamond Circle Theatre. Brought to you by Durango Acoustic Music (f.k.a. DSCPA), Kaplansky’s work is a welcome reminder of the power of solid, emotive writing and seductively powerful performing. The DAM thing starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are available now, at all the usual places.

And if you just need some good ol’ fashioned stomping good times, check out Sawyer Brown Friday night at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio. It’s a rare country music band that can weather the fickle storms of Nashville’s passing favor, but these fellas have been rockin’ it country-style for 25 years and still hitting the country charts, most recently with their 2005 album, Mission Temple Fireworks Stand. For a band that launched its big-name run with a win on “Star Search” in 1984 (the “American Idol” of yesteryear, kids), they’re a damn good band with some great lyrics, like this line from “Some Girls Do”: “I ain’t first class/but I ain’t white trash.” Through it all, Sawyer Brown (a band named after a road) continues to deliver songs and tunes that hit home for those of us who understand hard work, good deeds and the real meaning of “affordable housing.”

Watch out for hurricanes, Ted. lindsay_damico@yahoo.-com. •



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