Bouncing back, Thorogood and cow punk

by Chris Aaland

There’s no humor in this week’s Top Shelf. Like hundreds of other Durango residents, I spent last Friday afternoon watching the fire rage through Seasons, Half-Price Tees and Le Rendezvous. A co-worker and I finished having lunch and were driving back to Fort Lewis College when we saw the huge plume of brownish smoke in the air. Curiosity caused us to turn toward downtown. Amazement and fear kept us on Main for the next couple of hours.

I’ve known the owners of Seasons since the mid-1990s, when Wayne Barger and I worked together in the Fort Lewis Athletic Department. When I realized that the smoke was coming from Seasons, I knew my friends were going to lose their restaurant. A decade ago, Wayne, who is one of the most respected athletic trainers in college athletics, helped me rehabilitate my torn ACL; he did the same for my wife a year earlier. In busy years, Wayne will oversee the rehab of nearly two dozen torn ACLs by Skyhawk athletes, students and others – not to mention countless ankle, shoulder, neck and head injuries.

Seeing Wayne in the crowd on Friday was a welcome relief, as I knew he was safe. But when the gas explosion sent glass and debris into the street and firefighters into the air, my relief turned to shock. Suddenly, I found myself scanning the firefighters in search of another friend, David Tranum, who was there battling the blaze. David and I fly-fish together and have served on the FLC Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. His wife is pregnant with their second child. A mutual friend and I traded phone calls with information about David; by 4 p.m. I knew he was O.K. and still fighting the fire.

Like everyone else, the rest of the weekend really didn’t matter. Happy hours weren’t happy. Enjoying concerts, basketball games and fishing trips didn’t seem right, either. The three businesses that burned down will likely rebuild. But what about the employees who are now out of work? How many people are going to struggle with mortgage payments, child care, energy bills and finding new jobs?

Maybe I can find ways to help them. Maybe we all can. I’m sure that in the next few weeks, fund-raisers and emergency accounts will be set up. Do what you can to help these members of our community get back on their feet.

One thing is for certain: I have never been more proud of my hometown. Media reports noted that more than 100 firefighters from the Durango, Upper Pine, Los Piños and Fort Lewis Mesa fire departments responded, and many of these folks are volunteers. Police and sheriff’s deputies joined in, medical personnel quickly assembled to treat the injured firefighters, and restaurant and business owners brought food, water and supplies.

For all who pitched in, thank you.

As trivial as it may seem given last Friday’s devastating fire, my task is to offer nightlife tips for the next week. Several can’t-miss concerts augment a busy entertainment calendar that already features the Durango Independent Film Festival.

Greensky Bluegrass performs at the Henry Strater Theatre on Thursday, with doors at 7 p.m. and an opening set by Rock & Rye at 8 p.m. Greensky won the 2006 Telluride Bluegrass band competition with their tight instrumentation, rootsy harmonies and solid original material. Recently, former Durango dobro and lap steel player Anders Beck moved to Michigan to join Greensky. Beck is a past member of the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band and Wayword Sons, among others.

If high and lonesome aren’t your bag, head down to Steamworks on Thursday for Pint Night and a live DJ Jonezy brings his popular MEDS (which airs 1-3 p.m. Wednesdays on KDUR, 91.9 and 93.9 FM) to the brewery at 10 p.m. Jonezy says strictly vinyl, all pork and no cheese.

It only took a few days for George Thorogood and the Destroyers to sell out when tickets went on sale in January. Those who shelled out serious coin will see the classic rock and blues veteran at 7 p.m. Sunday night at the Community Concert Hall. It’s not Mr. Bad-to-the-Bone’s first-ever trip to Durango; he played FLC’s Whalen Gymnasium in the early 1980s.

Agent Orange, Southern California’s original punk/surf power trio, returns to the Abbey at 10 p.m. Monday night. These guys pioneered what would become known as skate-punk and skate-core in the 1980s. The Freeman Social opens.

Afro-Peruvian ensemble Peru Negro performs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Community Concert Hall. Featuring traditional dance and music, Peru Negro has been nominated for Grammy and Latin Grammy awards.

And, lastly, cow-punk takes center stage at 10 p.m. Wednesday as the Supersuckers and the Railbenders bring high-test twang to the Abbey. The Supersuckers have a hearty brew of punk, rock and country. The Railbenders are a hard country trio from Denver. I could easily write an entire column about this show, but three words is all the advice I’ll give: Don’t miss it!

Do you like cow-punk? In honor of the Supersuckers/Railbenders twin bill, here are 10 alt-country albums that you must own (and that I play on my “Cask Strength” radio program, which airs Wednesdays from 8-10 p.m. on KDUR, 91.9 and 93.9 FM):

• Beat Farmers, “Tales of the New West” – The San Diego quartet’s 1985 debut is my favorite album of all time.

• The Gourds, “Bolsa de Agua” – All of the Gourds’ albums are great, but it’s tough to beat songs about BBQ, Texas Evangelicals and “retarded girls.”

• Drive-By Truckers, “Decoration Day” – A classic about guns, sinkholes and incest. And more guns.

• Uncle Tupelo, “No Depression” – Hailed as the birth of alt-country, this band’s divorce a few years later spawned Wilco and Son Volt.

• Long Ryders, “State of Our Union” – The missing link between the Flying Burrito Brothers and Uncle Tupelo, chock full of Reagan-era rage.

• Alejandro Escovedo, “A Man Under the Influence” – Escovedo is the poet laureate of alt-country.

• Whiskeytown, “Strangers Almanac” – Ryan Adams’ finest hour.

• The Blasters, second self-titled album – Dave Alvin’s rockabilly originals stand the test of time.

• Bottle Rockets, “The Brooklyn Side” – Skynyrd meets the Clash.

• Meat Puppets, “Forbidden Places” – A forgotten masterpiece by the legendary Phoenix cowpunks. •

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January 26, 2024
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January 11, 2024
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