Rockin’ out, the Reverend and the New Year

by Chris Aaland

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I fear rock is dead in Durango … or at least on life support awaiting last rights.

Don’t get me wrong – our local live music scene is a vibrant one. The bluegrass community thrives. Internationally known folkies pack their Martin guitars and protest anthems to town each year. Reggae, funk and jam bands get the hippies grooving on a regular basis. Local DJs and MCs have worked hard to promote their genres, building a following that now attracts national hip-hop acts. Even certified country music legends drop by once in awhile to dust off their Stetsons and boots.

But Durango, my friends, has forgotten how to rock. Sure, there are highlights every so often. X opening for Warren Zevon at the Whalen Gymnasium in 1987 was one for the ages. Exene Cervenka was nearly nine months pregnant and the friction between she and bandmate/ex-lover John Doe was at its zenith. Still, they rocked. Then Zevon – struggling with his own chemical demons – took the stage backed by Little Feat’s rhythm section. The twin bill was, perhaps, rock’s finest hour in Durango.

Before the jam band world was taken over by neo-newgrass acts, Widespread Panic brought Southern boogie to town in 1992 for a pair of shows at the Iron Horse Inn and the old FLC Fine Arts Auditorium. Rock’s soul was restored with Panic’s covers of Bobby Rush, Buffalo Springfield and the Meters.

In recent years, the Supersuckers, Gourds, Bottle Rockets, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men, Hank III’s Assjack, Alejandro Escovedo, and Los Straitjackets have rolled up their sleeves and plugged life support back in. Local acts like the Freeman Social, the Lawn Chair Kings, the Hounds of Purg and others administer CPR on a weekly basis.

Perhaps rock’s long and winding road to recovery needs a spiritual boost. Welcome, then, the Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy to the Abbey Theatre on Wed., Jan. 2. The good reverend preaches a different kind of gospel – one rooted in barrooms, whorehouses, detoxes and BBQ joints. As if his rockabilly and punk weren’t enough, how ’bout Nashville Pussy? They just roll with the likes of Motörhead, Marilyn Manson and Steve Earle. Buy your tickets immediately, as only a handful remain at press time. And be prepared to mosh.

While the nights before Christmas are rather quiet in the musical sense, the days leading up to New Year’s Eve certainly pick up. Warsaw returns to the Summit for a 10 p.m. gig on Sat., Dec. 29. Fueled by Ska beer and Jägermeister, their mix of ska, punk and Celtic would make Joe Strummer proud.

New Year’s Eve brings a bevy of choices, both near and far.

Durango’s own Tim Sullivan has shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette and Vince Gill. He’ll have the full Tim Sullivan Band behind him at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve at the Henry Strater Theatre (formerly known as the Diamond Circle Theatre).

The aforementioned Freeman Social rocks the Olde Schoolhouse at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The mountain crowd will surely turn out in force.

A bit further up north, Aftergrass hosts its third straight New Year’s party at the Miner’s Tavern in Silverton. The four-band bill gets rolling at about 7 p.m. with the Good Neighbors, the Antibodies, and Artikle in tow. All the stops will be pulled out, including lights, lasers, smoke, projection screen, confetti, champagne and, most likely, drunk people … some of whom will be sporting wigs to save a couple of bucks at the door.


DJ Brian Ess will spin house music at the Abbey Theatre on New Year’s Eve, with doors opening at 9:30 p.m. and music starting shortly thereafter. A special video surprise is slated for midnight.

If you’re planning a day in the powder, perhaps a trip to Telluride is in order for two of America’s hottest indie rock bands on New Year’s Eve. Rooney and Mayday Parade share the bill at the Telluride Conference Center and have appeared on Lollapalooza, Van’s Warped Tour and the Virgin Megatour in 2007. Music starts at 8 p.m.

So maybe the regional rock scene isn’t as dead as I feared … as long as a few blessed souls keep fighting the good fight. •

This week’s list provided by Stasia Lanier, the station manager and music director for KSUT Public Radio. She hosts the “Afternoon Blend,” an eclectic mix of music, featuring Americana – folk, roots and bluegrass – plus rock, blues, world, R&B, jazz and genre benders on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1-4 p.m. Tune in to KSUT online at or on your FM dial in Durango and La Plata County at 90.1 and 89.5, in Pagosa Springs and Farmington at 105.3, in Cortez and Mancos at 100.1, in Dolores at 91.9, in Silverton at 98.3 and 88.1, and in Bluff at 98.3.

Stasia’s Top 9 albums for 2007

-Neil Young, “Massey Hal1 1971.” From the archives, a young Neil performs his greatest hits for the first time. One for the island.

-Lucinda Williams, “West.” Pain intobeauty.

-Ryan Adams, “Easy Tiger.” Whiskeytownesque.

-Wilco, “Sky Blue Sky.” Aging well.

-Iron & Wine, “The Shepherd’s Dog.” Sam Beam’s haunting, literate and beautiful songs.

-Levon Helm, “Dirt Farmer.” This seminal voice is back with a great recording.

-Mavis Staples, “We’ll Never Turn Back.” Ry Cooder produced and original members of the Freedom Singers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo gave Mavis a hand reviving Civil Rights-era protest songs and spirituals that rock.

-Steve Earle, “Washington Square Serenade”. His personal tribute to the Greenwich Village folk era, plus some mushy love.

-Patty Griffin, “Children Running Through.” She always moves me. Her Durango show last July for KSUT was one of my favorite concerts in recent years. •

Don’t want to buy it, just want to rent it for a minute or two? E-mail Chris Aaland at



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