End of a decade, New Year’s and greatest hits

by Chris Aaland

Otto woke us at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Lying in bed trying to milk another half-hour of sleep, my mind ran a gamut of emotions thinking about the decade that ends this week. I changed jobs (twice), remarried, bought a house and a new car, and became a father. I saw hundreds of concerts and festivals, fancied craft beer, became somewhat of an accomplished cook, made pilgrimages to Denver for the Avalanche, Broncos, Rockies and Nuggets, and took far-fewer-but-still-satisfying treks into the mountains, fields and rivers. I embraced two passions from my younger days, radio and editorial writing. It was a great decade.

But I also wept. Two grandfathers died, as did several friends and colleagues. Terrorists struck fear into us, not just on 9/11 but every time we stepped onto a plane. Thousands of young Americans and countless Middle Easterners lost their lives in a war that is approaching its second decade. A guy stole not one but two elections, making us question whether our democracy is truly of the people, by the people, for the people. Steroids, meth, global warming, a nation divided … it never ended. It was a terrible decade.

And I aged. Diets and exercise that would shed 50 pounds in a relatively short amount of time never lasted. My back ached. Ankles, knees and shoulders begged for surgery. My beard grayed. It was a fast decade.

Late nights were more likely spent watching “Larry King Live” than in theatres and clubs. I found myself one of those old guys grumbling about the start times for concerts, movies and basketball games.

It seems like just last week Shelly and I bid adieu to the ‘90s at the Fillmore in Denver for Leftover Salmon’s giant New Year’s bash. Tony Furtado, John Cowan, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush and the Salmon boys led an all-night Newgrass party for thousands of tie-dyed revelers. I was 31 and all the world was for the taking.

I’m not sure how I’ll ring in 2010, but most likely it will be in front of the idiot box changing between CNN, ESPN and the History Channel. For those of you less long-of-tooth, Durango’s talented musicians hold court at nearly every watering hole.

My favorite: Carvers celebrates the end of the decade with live music from the Lawn Chair Kings, Jaki & the Joysticks and The Scrugglers at 8 p.m. tonight. Complimentary barleywine and champagne will be served at midnight.

The Summit’s no-cover New Year’s show features RedEyedDjinn and You’re Welcome. On New Year’s Day, recover from your hangover with a happy hour set by Eric Keifer from 6 -9 p.m., followed by First Friday with Aftergrass, DSP, DJ Mowgli and a live visual artist at 10.

Ring in the New Year at Steamworks with Tim Butler and Kolprit, as they spin the best of the ‘70s and ‘80s, plus a free champagne toast at midnight.

Sadly, Steamworks’ Bayfield Beer Factory closes its doors tonight. Bayfield’s own classic rock outfit, Psychedelic Mojo, takes the stage at 8 p.m. There will be giveaways and other specials throughout the night.

Motivator does New Year’s the Pagosa way with a 9 p.m. set at the Buffalo Inn. They’ll also play at DMR’s Creekside Italian Kitchen at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Starlight’s New Year’s Eve features DJ Twelfth Night at 9 p.m. Its calendar also includes DJ Spark Madden Saturday and Jonezy’s Club Meds Wednesday.

The Purple Haze hosts a New Year’s Eve party with live music by the Edgar Mack Blues Band tonight. From 8 p.m. ‘til midnight on Friday and Saturday, Cosmic Blues descends on the Purple Haze.

Formula 151 keeps busy with a 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve show at the Bear Creek Saloon in Pagosa Springs, a 2 p.m. Friday gig at Durango Mountain Resort, a 9 p.m. Friday set at the Derailed Saloon and a 2 p.m. Saturday encore at DMR.

This week’s Top Shelf list kisses the two-thousand-oughts goodbye with my top 10 albums of the decade:

1. Drive-By Truckers, “Decoration Day,” 2003. The first of three DBT records to feature Jason Isbell was the best southern rock album since the mid-1970s.

2. Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” 2002. Rejected by their Reprise label, Wilco’s career masterpiece was released a year later by Nonesuch.

3. Johnny Cash, “American IV: The Man Comes Around,” 2002. Everybody remembers his version of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” but it’s the Cash-penned title track with Book of Revelation references and the borrowing of a Lead Belly lyric that stands the test of time.

4. Neko Case, “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,” 2006. Much less country than her two stellar releases earlier in the decade, “Fox Confessor” cemented Case’s reputation as a vocalist and songwriter.

5. Alejandro Escovedo, “The Boxing Mirror,” 2006. Hepatitis C nearly killed him and “Boxing Mirror” showcases a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Part noir pop, part gritty rock and roll, its songs have haunted me since first listen.

6. The White Stripes, “Elephant,” 2003. Jack and Meg proved their toughness with “Ball and Biscuit” and “Seven Nation Army” and reminded us the power in rock’s simplicity.

7. Gillian Welch, “Time (The Revelator),” 2001. Welch was at the center of the bluegrass/rural folk revival fueled by “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but she chose to break those chains immediately with an album of acoustic rock-based tunes. She proved less is more, releasing just one more album during the decade.

8. Infamous Stringdusters, “Fork in the Road,” 2007. Six of Nashville’s best and brightest young pickers — including Durango’s own Travis Book — burst onto the national scene with this one. From Andy Hall’s bluesy dobro that opens the album to the Chris Pandolfi-penned instrumental that closes it, “Fork in the Road” marks the intersection of generations, where the best of traditional bluegrass meets the jamming of youth.

9. Steve Earle, “The Revolution Starts … Now,” 2004. An unrepresentative government has always stirred the souls of the likes of Guthrie, Seeger and Dylan. Earle’s anti-Iraq War anger seethes on this. Hearing him debut “Rich Man’s War” at the ’04 Telluride Bluegrass Festival in solo, acoustic fashion was a high water mark for live music during the decade.

10. Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Snake Farm,” 2006. Chilling, bluesy, country-rock from one of alt-country’s elder statesmen. •

Don’t ever say your car is broke? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.



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