Glory days, Alvin & the Blasters and stand-up

by Chris Aaland

During my senior year of high school, Mom gave me $5 each day for lunch. When Shawn Nichols and I would parlay our daily allowances, we could get in a lot of trouble. A quick trip to Hamburger Stand on Colfax and a bag of 29 cent burgers left us enough for a 12-pack or two of 3.2 Schaefer beer, which cost $3.79 at most convenience stores.

Shawn and I would park his jet-black ’68 Dodge Charger or my ’72 Chevy Malibu in the teachers’ lot behind the Wheat Ridge High School gym and enjoy a liquid lunch. Our stereos usually blasted cow-punk and roots bands of the time: Beat Farmers, Mojo Nixon, Del Fuegos, Long Ryders, Los Lobos and, of course, the Blasters.

I can relive those days at 7 p.m. Friday when Dave Alvin plays a Durango Acoustic Music concert at the Durango Arts Center. As lead guitarist and songwriter of the Blasters, Alvin was the yang of my youth to Beat Farmers drummer Country Dick Montana’s yin. After leaving the Blasters, Alvin appeared in X, the Knitters and the Pleasure Barons. His solo career is a Grammy-winning one, combining blues, country, rockabilly and folk into an Americana roux. This time around, Alvin performs as a duo with multi-instrumentalist Chris Miller.

Ska and reggae take center stage at the Summit this week. Warsaw returns with its punk-edged ska tonight, while the Mighty 602 Band brings Jah’s word there on Friday. Members of the Mighty 602 have performed with Sister Carol, General Smiley, Bad Brains and Primus, and are skilled at everything from reggae to punk.

Stand-up comic Russ Rivas dishes out improv at the Hank at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Owner of Laff’s Comedy Club in Albuquerque, Rivas is my kind of guy. He briefly served as assistant coach for the New Mexico Scorpions with the sole assignment of heckling the opposition. The Western Professional Hockey League fined the team and banned him from the bench.

The Summit hosts a benefit on Saturday for Jenna Davies, a local preschool teacher who suffered major injuries in a car accident recently. The event features live music from Aftergrass, belly dancing and a silent auction.

Steamworks holds an ‘80s prom night theme party on Friday with DJ Tim Butler spinning eighties hits. The best dressed will receive a $50 house voucher and you can even buy a corsage for $5 and get a picture with your date. It’s free if you dress up. At 10 p.m. Saturday, Vanilla Pop from Taos brings pop, lounge and comedy to Steamworks.

The Assortment returns to Durango Brewing from 6-8 p.m. tonight. While you’re there, sample DBC’s newest offering, “Ghost Train,” a spiced, dark holiday ale.

The Stillwater Foundation presents its first music program, “Make Music Happen,” at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Durango Arts Center. The foundation began in 2006 offering after-school music lessons to 15 students. Today, Stillwater’s six bands are comprised of musicians age seven to adult and perform a variety of genres, including jazz, rock, Latin and blues. A portion of the $20 ticket price is tax deductible.

The Vallecito Nordic Club hosts a fundraiser and membership drive from 6-9 p.m. tonight at the Lost Dog. A silent auction will be held from 6-8 with Durango.comedy performing at 8. The money raised will be used for trail-grooming equipment and fuel; most of the work is done by volunteers.

From 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at Maria’s Bookshop, nine Durango high school and college students will share their experiences from the PeaceJam Global Call to Action Conference. Held in Los Angeles earlier this fall, more than 2,000 youth leaders from around the world met with seven Nobel Peace laureates to discuss the state of the world and strategize solutions for global problems.

In honor of Dave Alvin’s Durango Arts Center concert, this week’s Top Shelf list looks at 10 highlights from his storied career:

• The Blasters, self-titled album, 1979. Rockabilly fanatic Ronnie Weiser produced the Blasters’ debut for his own Rollin’ Rock label. Fewer than 2,000 vinyl records were produced. Fortunately, HighTone re-released this as “American Music” with bonus tracks in 1997. To this day, “Marie, Marie” and “American Music” are songs that highlight Alvin’s live shows.

• “Wanda and Duane,” from Blue Blvd, 1991. A rockin’ little number about trailer trash and porno mags.

• X, “Fourth of July,” from “See How We Are,” 1987. Alvin left the Blasters and briefly joined these L.A. punk pioneers. This remains the definitive version of a song covered by Robert Earl Keen and others.

• “Bus Station,” from “King of California,” 1994. Alvin rethought many of his earlier songs on this folk classic. “Bus Station” was transformed from rockabilly rave-up to an introspection of love and loss.

• Pleasure Barons, “Live in Las Vegas,” 1993. Alvin joined forces with Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana for occasional tours de force. While Dick was the ringmaster and Mojo was, well, Mojo, Alvin morphed into Mickey Gilley for “Closing Time.”

• “Everett Ruess,” from “Ashgrove,” 2004. Just as this song’s namesake was inspired by the beauty of mountains, canyons and deserts, so was Alvin. His father organized mining unions across the Southwest, including ones in the San Juans.

• “California Snow,” from “Blackjack David,” 1998. Alvin and Tom Russell wrote a sad, elegant eulogy to immigrants who risked everything for a chance at a better life.

• The Knitters, “Poor Little Critter on the Road,” 1984. A decade before the phrase “alt-country” was coined, Alvin joined members of X for a tried-and-true country classic.

• The Blasters, “Common Man,” from “Hard Line,” 1985. Alvin called out Ronald Reagan in a song that remains sadly relevant in W’s waning days in office.

• “Border Radio.” Whether you prefer the rockabilly version on the Blasters’ major label debut or the slower ode that closes “King of California,” this one is Alvin’s masterwork. •

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