Tinsel tunes, Warsaw and the Jackelope's bite

by Chris Aaland

Welcome, friends, to the first installment of “Top Shelf,” a collection of weekly listening and drinking tips to keep you warm despite the 14-degree mornings and daily commutes down luge runs disguised as Wildcat Canyon Road, Florida Road and Highway 160 West. Allow me to start by saying that it’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of Lindsay Nelson, Ted Holteen and Mike Sheahan — compadres who have shaped my own preferences for live music and livelier cheer.

But it’s also scary to follow them into the happy-hour hijinx of this time of year.

Aah, the holidays. Time for office parties with warm domestic beer and lumpy cheesy tortilla rolls. Six Bud Lights and a handful of mixed nuts, and you’re ready to solve all of your company’s ills.

It’s also the time to be tortured by seasonal music. I mean, how many times can you be subjected to Bryan Adams’ “Run Rudolph Run” before you want to go postal? I might have succumbed to the occasional James Taylor best-of set in the past, but come on! An entire Christmas package? Some of these legends apparently slice their drives.

Not that all holiday music lands in a sand trap. Play any of the seasonal classics by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby or Elvis Presley and you’re sure to have your Christmas partygoers reaching for another glass of eggnog. I gotta admit, Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” and U2’s “Merry Christmas Baby” both bring a smile to my face. The Boss never touched a seasonal song that tortured my ears. Political art like Steve Earle’s “Christmas in Washington” or John & Yoko’s “Happy XMAS/War Is Over” rank with their finest compositions. But I digress.

One thing that heralds the spirit of the season is Peace on Earth — something that flies under the radar for far too many of us. Woodstock headliner Richie Havens kicked off the infamous weekend of peace and love in 1969 with a legendary three-hour set that reminded the original festivarians that humanity and tolerance will ultimately triumph over oppression and racism. His interpretations of the Beatles and Bob Dylan are unrivaled. Download “Freedom” today to hear this message. Guitar pickers will be inspired by his unique, fret-thumb dominated stylings. The rest of us will just sit and listen. Hopefully we take Havens’ wisdom and words into our daily lives. Don’t miss the live performance at 7 p.m. this Saturday at the Community Concert Hall.

A different kind of freedom will be hailed on Saturday night in Silverton. Ska warriors Warsaw return to high altitude with a 9 p.m. set at the Pride of the West Saloon. Powered by their June festival performance at the Silverton Jamboree and legendary Ska Brewing acoustic sit-ins, Warsaw has built a loyal following all over the San Juans. Plan to reserve a hotel room or buy a ticket for your designated driver. Roads may be icy, but the dance floor will be hot.

Silverton isn’t the only ski town mecca to host live music this weekend. Telluride welcomes the Base Camp Music Experience — part of the Jeep King of the Mountain World Pro Championships for ski cross and snowboard cross — which brings such luminaries as Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Blackilicious, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers and a DJ set by Macy Gray from Friday through Sunday. Some of this eclectic festival of winter X Games sports and music is free; the rest require tickets.

If R&B, ska, hip-hop, newgrass, funk and folk aren’t eclectic enough for you, maybe a cello in a beer-drenched dive is. Durango’s Formula 151 performs in two of the area’s finest honky-tonks this week. Tonight, Dec. 13, finds them at the Wild Horse Saloon in Durango for an 8:30 p.m. set. The quartet visits the Billy Goat Saloon in Gem Village the following evening for a 9 p.m. gig. If Katherine Tischhauser’s cello doesn’t arrest your ears, then perhaps Dave Mensch’s lyrics will.

So music isn’t satisfying your holiday jones? Consider then the gift of booze to satisfy your Yuletide fix. The boys at Peach Street Distillers in Palisade — you know ‘em as Bill and Dave from Ska Brewing — have unleashed Jackelope Gin, handmade in small batches just 37 ¾ miles from Utah. Bill subjected “Top Shelf” to the Pepsi challenge recently against Bombay Sapphire. Relying on hand-picked Colorado juniper berries, Jackelope emerged victorious with its crisp, clean and sweet flavor.

I’ve been known to mix gin with tonic, fresh-squeezed lime, lemon and orange juices, and raspberry soda to create a festival concoction known as the “Four” (after Telluride’s Lift 4, appropriately named by a 3-year-old downhill demon). I’m not sure if Jackelope deserves such a simple twist of fate, but it certainly replaces Tanqueray on my top shelf. Find it at most Durango liquor merchants.

Each week, “Top Shelf” will feature a list from local DJ’s, musicians and live music producers. Read on to tap into the music that moves the folks who shake our collective booty:


This week’s list is provided by Chap Myers, host of the “Go Pogo” radio program. Pitbull rock and country music can be heard on “Go Pogo” each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KDUR, 91.9 and 93.9 FM and www.kdur.org. Chap reminds you to support community radio, your local scene, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Go Pogo Top 10 for 2007:

1. The Ants, “Ideabreaker.” Creepy songs delivered in a deceptively tuneful way.

2. Artichokes, “Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols.” Song-by-song rendition of the essential album. Acoustic Johnny Rotten makes more sense than you’d think.

3. Richmond Fontaine, “Thirteen Cities.” Tom Waits meets William Burroughs. Be grateful you don’t live that way.

4. Meat Puppets, “Rise to Your Knees.” Characteristic bad trip acid punk for a threesome who should have perished years ago. Sometimes rehab works.

5. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, “Jesus Let Me Down.” Two live CDs of full-immersion baptism. Serpent handling, glossolalia and laying-on of hands optional, but recommended. You did catch them at the Tour de Fat?

6. Heavy Trash, “Going Way Out With Heavy Trash.” Latter-day railriding music. The Sadies show up; seems nowhere’s safe from them.

7. Wussy, “Left for Dead.” So catchy, so distressing. Every song a single … the best sophomore release ever.

8. Patti Smith, “Twelve.” A lot of misses on this all-covers album, but her versions of “Gimme Shelter” and, especially, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are worth the cover charge.

9. John Doe, “Year in the Wilderness.” Ex-X Doe does it again. One of the many fine offerings from Yep Roc Records.

10. Gore Gore Girls, “Get the Gore.” Depends on how you feel about chick garage bands. If you like ’em, you’ll love this. They set the Summit on fire and played all night in the embers. •

Ever find a $20 bill underneath a stack of trash cans? E-mail Chris Aaland at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.



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