Mall rats, chicken fried and Soda Jerks

by Chris Aaland

I hate shopping … and malls in particular. Mojo Nixon sang “Burn Down the Malls” in 1986, and I couldn’t have agreed more. As such, I’ve never understood Black Friday. Things turned ugly last week. Jdimytai Darmour, a 34-year-old temp worker, was stampeded to death when thousands of crazed shoppers tore down the doors and bum-rushed a Wal-Mart in Long Island. In Palm Desert, Calif., two men shot and killed each other at a Toys R Us. Reports point to rival gangs and a fight that broke out earlier in the day. Exactly who brings loaded weapons into a toy store?

I spent my Black Friday trudging through fresh snow chasing pheasants. My closest encounter with a line was waiting behind my brother and stepfather at the Cardinal Café in Norcatur, Kan. The $6.99 all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, white gravy, corn, pasta salad and pumpkin pie isn’t quite Black Friday, but it’s as close as I got to the madness.

Here’s hoping your holiday shopping wasn’t quite as eventful as what went down on either coast. My tip: give the gift of music. I’ll spend a drunken Saturday later this month compiling my latest “Country Classics” CD for friends and exposing them to the likes of Faron Young, Johnny Horton and Don Gibson. Or I can buy local and introduce my out-of-town pals to Durango’s music makers.

One such group, the Soda Jerks, hosts a CD release party at the Summit on Saturday. The trio of Aidan Jerk (guitar, vocals), Mikey Jerk (bass) and Eric Jerk (drums) plays an inspired, original version of rockabilly with punk and surf undertones. Imagine guys weaned on Rev. Horton Heat, Social Distortion, the Cramps and Dick Dale, and you have a pretty good idea of what they sound like. Their debut album, “Do the Horizontal Hula Tonight!” will be available at the show. The bill also includes the Lawn Chair Kings, the Formless and the Boycotts. Preview the CD by tuning into KDUR’s “Music Lesson” at 5:30 p.m. Friday with host Bryant Liggett.

The David Smith Bluegrass Band makes its public debut at the Henry Strater Theatre on Friday. Many of you know David through his regular outfit, Rock & Rye, as the longtime host of the “Sweet By & By” on KDUR, and as a board member for the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. His latest ensemble features a veritable who’s who of the local bluegrass scene, including guitarist Robin Davis (Hickster, Wayword Sons, Broke Mountain, Rock & Rye), mandolin player Josiah Payne (Hot Strings), bassist Jimmy Largent (Badly Bent) and Hap Purcell (original banjo player for Rock & Rye). Doors open at 7 p.m. with opening act Waiting on Trial taking the stage around 8.

Another local newcomer is Megaphon, a four-piece acid jazz/fusion band that plays the Summit tonight (Thursday). The group mixes traditional instrumentation (guitar, keyboards, bass and drums) with loops and samples to create improvisational music with a danceable groove.

Albuquerque’s Nosotros returns to the Summit on Friday. Always a hot ticket, Nosotros blends Latin rhythms with elements of flamenco, salsa, jazz and rock. Their fourth album,

“Llena la Alma,” is garnering national and international attention, thanks in no small part to “Hermosa,” a tune that won the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

The old Thursday tradition of Ska-B-Q moves indoors to the new Ska World Headquarters. This week’s offering is I-Gene, spinning reggae from 5-7 p.m. tonight. I’m not sure if there is food involved, but am certain of $3 mainline pints.

Steamworks hosts two different live music events at their Durango brewery this weekend. Check out the acoustic alternative rock of Farmington’s Nick Britt on Friday, then groove to the good-time rock of the Good Neighbors on Saturday. For those of you on the east side of the county, Kirk James brings solo blues to Steamworks Bayfield from 5-8 p.m. Saturday.

The Assortment plays at 6 p.m. tonight at the Durango Brewing Co.. While there, warm up with DBC’s latest seasonal offering, Durango Winter Ale.

Jack Ellis & Larry Carver play their high-altitude blend of blues, rock and folk at the 8th Street Tavern at 8 p.m. Friday.


This week’s Top Shelf list is provided by the aforementioned David Smith, guitarist and vocalist for Rock & Rye and the David Smith Bluegrass Band. Here are David’s Top 10 bluegrass albums of 2008:

1. Town Mountain, “Heroes and Heretics” – This CD is flat-out travelin’, lonesome, blues-driven bluegrass. Robert Greer is one of the best singers around, and the band is a tightly knit group.

2. Chatham County Line, “IV” – They continues to be my favorite group in any genre. Hearing them perform “Chip of a Star” was a highlight of my summer.

3. Steeldrivers, self-titled – I grew up on Southern rock, and this album brings the grit of that genre to bluegrass. Every song seems to be about moonshine – not a bad topic!

4. Longview, “Deep in the Mountains” – Seek out all of their albums. This newest configuration of traditionally minded, high-and-lonesome bluegrassers features banjo great J.D. Crowe and tenor singer Lou Reid.

5. Dan Paisley & the Southern Grass, “Room Over Mine” – PAISLEY! Nobody else is doin’ what Dan does. Go out and get all the Southern Grass albums – going back to when Dan’s father, Bob, was leading the way.

6. Michael Cleveland & the Flamekeepers, “Leavin’ Town” – Cleveland is quickly turning from the role of sideman to band leader. I’m glad he was able to find musicians to keep up with his monster fiddle playing.

7. Infamous Stringdusters, self-titled – With songs like “Four Days in July” and “Loving You,” the ’Dusters keep up their progressive and totally original take on bluegrass.

8. Blue Moon Rising, “One Lonely Shadow” – This album grows on me every time I give it a listen. They’ve been around for awhile, and I think you’ll be hearing more about them in the near future.

9. Lonesome River Band, “No Turning Back” – Sammy Shelor on banjo makes Lonesome River Band one of my favorite groups in modern bluegrass.

10. Dan Tyminski Band, “Wheels” – A lot of the tracks are on the slower, ballad side of things, but the bluegrass numbers with Tyminski’s signature driving guitar rhythm make this a must have. •

What’s America turning into? Mondo-condo-shopping-mall-hell? E-mail me at



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