Grand Tasting, Hammer Smith and ‘Wet Dog’

by Chris Aaland

Blues. Brews. Babies. Wives. Work. Friends. Football. Fútbol. I’ve written about choices before, but this week strains the brain. With two Blues & Brews passes waiting, the FLC Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony set for 11 a.m. Saturday, my wife’s volleyball team opening the defense of their RMAC title, the Broncos coming off a 41-14 (!) victory over the evil and insipid Raiders, my beloved Skyhawk kickers beginning their home slate and the ever-present Otto, my nine lives all run into each other this weekend. Let’s dissect.

I have one wife. She coaches the defending league champion volleyball team and opens league play against Adams State on Friday, followed by a game against CSU-Pueblo on Saturday. That’s a no-brainer. Top Shelf stays in Durango. The lovely and talented Heather babysits Otto.

Sunday is more complicated. On the plus side: Shelly has the day off. I can make the last day of Blues & Brews and see Etta James, Derek Trucks, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Blind Boys of Alabama and more, burning off my drunk at my good friend Scott Spencer’s Mountain Village pad. On the minus side: Another good friend, Brien Smith, will be staying at my house to watch FLC athletic teams all weekend long. Skyhawk soccer is at home, and my Donks can take a commanding lead in the AFC West with a win over San Diego.

Where will I be? Squares cost $5 each. Your bet’s as good as mine.

The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival takes place Friday through Sunday in Town Park. Headliners include Etta James, John Hiatt, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks, Joan Osborne and G. Love & Special Sauce. The rest of the bill ain’t too shabby, either, with Dirty Dozen, Susan Tedeschi, the Blind Boys, the John Butler Trio, Chris Thomas King, Canned Heat and many others. The highlight is the grand tasting of 53 microbreweries, which takes place from noon-3 p.m. Saturday in Town Park while music is playing on the main stage. Nearly every Colorado micro – including all four Durango breweries – plus countless others from across the country are represented … more than 150 beers total. Saturday passes are already sold out, but three-day passes remained as of Monday.

If you can’t make the drive to Telluride, the fine folks at the Summit will bring the blues to you. The Hammer Smith Band, a Los Angeles-based band fronted by harmonica wizard Chris “Hammer” Smith, plays there at 9 p.m. Friday. Smith has recorded with a veritable who’s who that transcends all genres – Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Sammy Hagar and more. They’ve opened for legends like B.B. King, Albert King, Big Joe Turner, Johnny Winter and Bonnie Raitt.

The Summit’s other musical offerings this week includes electro/rock outfit Indobox from Massachusetts on Saturday, indie/pop/funk from Drew Danberry and Fatal Fury on Monday, and the funk, psychobilly and classic rock of Durango’s The Sweats on Wednesday.

Party in the face of madness! Sand Sheff returns with good friend Thomas Sneed (formerly of the Reeltime Travelers) and local rockers Aftergrass for a 7:30 p.m. all-ages show Friday at the Henry Strater Theatre. Sheff, a onetime Durango resident, writes and plucks pure Americana, blending country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and rock. Sneed is no stranger to Durango, either, having played a couple of Durango Bluegrass Meltdowns with Reeltime. The two have a musical relationship that goes back to their high school days in Oklahoma. Aftergrass and Sheff go way back, too. The psychedelic rock/bluegrass/hip-hop band has performed Sheff’s “Wet Dog” for years and included it on their debut CD.

On Friday, Moe’s Starlight Lounge hosts a back-to-school party featuring four of Durango’s finest DJs at 5 p.m. Sunday. Spinning tunes will be Posh Josh, Brian Ess, Fatpea and Niko.

The second-to-last Ska-B-Q of the summer happens at 5 p.m. tonight (Thursday) in Bodo Park with alternative funk and rock by the Good Neighbors.

This week’s Top Shelf list suggests 10 can’t-miss moments at Blues & Brews:

- Warren Haynes, Saturday, 10 p.m., Telluride Conference Center (Mountain Village). Haynes is the hardest-working man in the jam universe, juggling tours with the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule and the Dead.

- Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Chris Thomas King Band and the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Sunday, 9 p.m., Sheridan Opera House. After Sunday morning’s hangover long since faded to memory, the “Fais Do Do” finale will be a sweaty, steamy and (likely) drunken affair.

- John Hiatt, Friday, 7 p.m., Town Park. Hiatt in an election year is must-hear music.

- Etta James, Sunday, 7 p.m., Town Park. With a career that started in 1955, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer helped shaped the future of blues, R&B, jazz and rock.

- Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Saturday, 10 p.m., Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. The Moon will be packed to an uncomfortable level by the accordion-playing son of zydeco legend Rockin’ Dopsie.

- Blind Boys of Alabama, Sunday, 11 a.m., Town Park. You won’t have many more chances to hear Jimmy Lee Carter, the last remaining original member of the Alabama Institute for Negro Blind and the Happyland Jubilee Singers. He started performing with the band that eventually became the Blind Boys in 1939.

- Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Sunday, 3:20 p.m., Town Park. Who’d have thought that six horns, guitar and drums would fire off the angriest salvo to your government’s pitiful response to Hurricane Katrina? DDBB is a lot more than second line rhythms and New Orleans funeral marches.

- Gov’t Mule, Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Are you kidding me? Three-and-a-half hours after the free communal beer binge ends, Haynes and Co. take the stage at exactly the same time your head is spinning.

- Mama’s Cookin’, Friday, 10 p.m., Fly Me to the Moon. Hippies twirlin’ about T-Ride isn’t just for Bluegrass anymore.

- Blues for Breakfast, Saturday & Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon, Elks Lodge. Listen to acoustic blues contest finalists while stuffing your face and sipping bloody marys and mimosas. The acoustic blues competition is the real deal – last year’s winner, Colin Lake (a former FLC student), is a rising star in blues circles. •

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