The beer race, Booker T. and General Smiley

by Chris Aaland

Like so many of you, I tried to take it all in last weekend: the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown fund-raiser at Durango Brewing, my usual Friday afternoon happy hour shenanigans, a twin bill at the Hank on Saturday and two days of Oktoberfest. My pace seemed fine, but a throbbing in my head on Sunday morning forced me out of the great beer race.

Along the way, I came to a few conclusions. First, our craft brewers have the Oktoberfest thing down pat. Durango Colorfest and Carvers’ Harvestbier are traditional German-style ales brewed in the spring and released in the fall. Steamworks’ Colorado Kolsch always goes down easy. Yet it was Ska’s Strong Scotch Ale that stole the show, particularly for those yearning a smack upside the head. The smell once the bottles were uncorked will floor the weak-hearted.

The second was more of a reaffirmation rather than an epiphany: starting like a rabbit in a long-distance race never leads to a fantastic finish. In fact, it usually ends badly. It’s not the first time a well-planned four-night bender ended on the couch on Sunday morning watching the Broncos falter at Kansas City.

The third is that this town knows a party. When 60 folks from across the U.S., Canada and Australia hit town with the Roots on the Rails tour to see the likes of Fred Eaglesmith, Corb Lund and Po’ Girl (the latter played dates in Silverton and Pagosa Springs), they were more amazed at the bleary-eyed and badly dressed locals who were already past their mid-afternoon hangovers and into their second drunk of the day. Kind of like what probably happened in Hazzard County after the cameras quit rolling and Uncle Jesse busted out the moonshine.

Alas, the party ended sans Top Shelf at the Ska grand opening. Thankfully, a few growlers and bombers survived the weekend to serve as a happy reminder that beerfests, like all holidays, are amateur hours. Regulars find their barstools again soon enough.

Or, as my friend Drew Curlett likes to say, “the liver is evil and must be destroyed.”

Legendary soul organist Booker T. Jones comes to the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Best known for R&B hits like “Green Onions” and “Hip Hug-Her,” Jones was the leader of Booker T. & the MG’s, the house band for the legendary Stax Records. Along with guitarist Steve Cropper, bassists Donald “Duck” Dunn and Lewis Steinberg, and drummer Al Jackson, the MG’s backed everyone from Albert King to Otis Redding to the Staple Singers. Today, his live show blends classic blues, R&B and MG’s cuts with stories about how the songs shaped his sound.

The Capitol Steps, a widely praised political comedy troupe, visits the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Capitol Steps began in 1981 as a group of Senate staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them. Twenty-seven years later, they’ve recorded 28 albums of nonpartisan wit. Think they have something to say about Sarah Palin? The Wall Street mess? There might not be much to cheer about on TV news right now, but regardless of your personal politics, the Capitol Steps will make you chuckle.

Vast Aire is back for an all-ages encore performance at the Abbey Theatre on Friday. The emcee has been recording for nearly a decade as a solo artist and as a member of Atoms Fam and Cannibal Ox. He’s toured the world with the GZA, Ghostface Killah, the Roots, Brother Ali, the Weathermen Murs, Little Brother and more.

Jamaican reggae artists General Smiley and Ken Serious take over the Summit tonight (Thursday). Smiley started his career in the late ’70s with duo partner Papa Michigan. Among the artists they inspired along the way was Yellowman, who hit the big time with a version of Smiley and Michigan’s “Diseases.” While changes to Jamaican dancehall music have slowed some of his peers, Smiley rolled with the changes to bring his message to a new generation. Serious is a kindred spirit.

Funk is in the house at the Summit on Sunday with the Brian Jordan Trio. Jordan has spent seven years as guitarist for Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and has shared the stage with the likes of James Brown, the Allman Brothers, Bob Weir, Dave Matthews, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz and Bernie Worrell.

The Summit’s busy week also includes the jam-rock of Phoenix band the Mojo Farmers on Friday, DJs Fat Pea and Jonezy on Saturday and the hip-hop and funk of Colorado emcee Blvd and San Francisco instrumental trio Souleye on Wednesday.

Speaking of Fat Pea, send he and Spark Madden off to brighter futures and bigger dance floors at 10 p.m. tonight at Steamworks, as the duo will perform their last show at the brewery. Benjamin K opens the festivities.

General Smiley plays the Summit Oct. 2

On the fund-raising front, Formula 151’s Dave Mensch will perform solo at Common Sense Café (15th St. and E. 2nd Ave.) for the Breast Show in Town at 4:30 p.m. Friday. This event is part of Fashion Week Durango and features a lingerie show and breast cancer awareness benefit. It’s free, but donations are appreciated.

With a bow to Booker T. Jones, here are 10 highlights from the Stax vaults:

1. “I’ll Play the Blues for You, Parts 1 & 2,” Albert King, 1972. Serious blues meets Memphis soul.

2. “I Thank You/Wrap it Up,” Sam & Dave, 1968. One of the greatest two-sided singles of all-time.

3. “Knock on Wood,” Eddie Floyd, 1967. Floyd and David Porter penned one of R&B’s most enduring songs.

4. “Green Onions,” Booker T. & the MG’s, 1962. One of the fattest riffs in rock history.

5. “Respect,” Otis Redding, 1965. Aretha’s version might be more famous, but Otis’ version had the Bar-Kays on horns.

6. “In the Midnight Hour,” Wilson Pickett, 1965. The powerhouse MG’s rhythm section of Jackson and Dunn drove the Wicked Pickett to the top of the charts.

7. “Theme from Shaft,” Isaac Hayes, 1971. Blaxplotation and wah-wah guitar.

8. “King & Queen,” Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, 1967. An album for the ages.

9. “Soul Finger,” the Bar-Kays, 1967. Frenetic horns.

10. “I’ll Take You There,” the Staple Singers, 1972. Gospel hits No. 1. •

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