BoulDurango, See-I and RockyGrass

by Chris Aaland

Microbrews and oysters. These are two things Seattle offers in great abundance. Last week saw me on my first trek into the Emerald City. My friend Andy Chase and I devoured four dozen of the bivalve mollusks and sampled several local ales during our down time. Elliott’s Oyster House on Pier 56 featured 24 local oysters and 10 Washington micros. The Pike Brewery offered a six-beer sampler of four-ounce tasters of their brews, including the absolutely stunning Kilt Lifter Scotch-style ale. Their spicy coconut mussels and clams weren’t too shabby, either.

But what stood out in Seattle was the friendliness of the folks we met. Much like here, people seemed truly happy to live there and were proud of their burg. A crowd of 50, including dozens of Fort Lewis College alumni, joined us for a gathering to meet new President Dene Kay Thomas and other administrators. All seemed equally proud of their FLC and Durango experiences and their new Seattle lives. Similarities included a green ethos, a liberal bent, countless outdoor activities, a thriving music scene, a strong Native American influence, and great local food and brews. No wonder more than 180 grads of Colorado’s Campus in the Sky call the Seattle area home (as do more than 4 million others). There’s even a former Skyhawk football coach, Gus Bradley, serving as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

The microbrewing world is a small one, populated by artisans and activists who rebelled against mass-produced corporate swill and reinvigorated the beer world with a touch of class. Here in Colorado, just as in the Pacific Northwest, they’ve succeeded. Most of these suds saints also have big hearts, supporting a variety of local causes: hence the notion behind the second annual Tour of BoulDurango and the collaboratively brewed Skavery Wheelsucker Wheat. At 2 p.m. Saturday, a dozen craft brewers from across Colorado will complete a five-day, 470-mile bicycle ride from Avery Brewing in Boulder to the Ska Brewing World Headquarters in Bodo. The celebratory bash that follows includes the tapping of the first Durango kegs of Wheelsucker, a traditional hefewiezen that makes a mighty fine radler, mind you, plus live ska music by S.O.B. Proceeds benefit the La Plata County Safe Roads Coalition. Participating rider/brewers include Adam Avery (Avery Brewing), Dale Katechis (Oskar Blues) and Dave Thibodeau (Ska). Other participating breweries include Tommyknocker, Breckenridge, Eddyline, the Brick Oven, Ourayle House and Colorado Boy. Similar fund-raisers will take place at breweries along the route.

Babylon Collapse Sound System presents a KDUR benefit featuring See-I, Dr. Israel and DJ I-Gene at 9 p.m. Friday at the Abbey. See-I has been called one of the East Coast’s premier reggae/dub party bands. Dr. Israel has turned heads for his blend of reggae, dub, jungle, punk and hardcore.

The Abbey also hosts Americana at 7 p.m. Saturday in the form of Mississippi native Jason Eady. His third album, “When the Money’s All Gone,” delivers Southern gospel stomps and New Orleans soul; his 2007 effort, “Wild Eyed Serenade,” made No Depression magazine’s Top 50 albums of the year in its annual readers’ poll.

Music in the Mountains treats Durango to a free concert at noon today (Thurs., July 22) in the Three Springs Plaza. The low brass performance features tubas and trombones. Buy lunch in Three Springs or bring your own picnic.

Elsewhere: Kirk James does solo blues from 5-8 p.m. tonight at Rylee Mac’s Market; tonight’s weekly Ska-B-Q features the rock of Moondog Jones; Black Velvet, featuring Nina Sasaki and Larry Carver, plays Rylee Mac’s at 5 p.m. Friday; Tumblin’ Dice does rock and blues at the Purple Haze from 6-10 p.m. Friday; the Kirk James Blues Band rocks Vallecito’s Schank House from 6-10 p.m. Friday; Giants Dance brings its Celtic flare to the Durango Farmers Market on Saturday; Black Velvet encores at Sweeney’s Restaurant at 5:30 p.m. Saturday; and the Lawn Chair Kings take their Western garage north to Telluride’s Last Dollar Saloon at 9-ish Saturday.

And then there’s RockyGrass. The 38th annual festival of traditional bluegrass — which, since 1993, has been held at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons on the banks of the St. Vrain River — is without doubt my favorite musical pilgrimage of the year. 2010 marks my 12th straight RockyGrass. This week’s Top Shelf list includes the 10 things I’m looking forward to the most at Rockygrass:

1. Doc Watson. The 87-year-old legend always sends chills down my spine.

2. Two-time Meltdown veteran Junior Sisk bringing Rambler’s Choice (and their great new album, “Heartaches and Dreams”) to the main stage Sunday.

3. Tony Rice. The world’s best bluegrass guitarist jams with the Travelin’ McCourys on Saturday and with his own Tony Rice Unit on Sunday.

4. A mini-reunion of Broke Mountain. I’m sure Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters) and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) will find themselves at the same campground pick.

5. Tubing the St. Vrain through the festival grounds when temperatures hit the 90-degree mark each day.

6. Bobby Osborne. Brother Sonny may have retired in 2005, but his mandolin-playing older brother brings the Rocky Top X-Press to Lyons on Sunday.

7. Sisters Dumplings. I’ve gained five pounds in chicken, dough and ginger sauce in past years.

8. Jeff Scroggins. The Albuquerque banjo wizard will no doubt drop jaws in the campground. He’ll also join his regular band, the Blue Canyon Boys, at Oskar Blues Saturday night.

9. The Seldom Scene. Sure, Ben Eldridge is the last original member. But Lou Reid, Ronnie Simpkins, Fred Travers and Dudley Connell make for a great lineup, too.

10. Payback. The Oskar Blues boys hooked us up with their deep fryer for Father’s Day po’ boys at Telluride; I’ll hit their boutique for a boatload of beer geek schwag and some fat crab cakes.

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