Fathers on grass, Radio La Chusma and Beautiful Losers

by Chris Aaland

Father’s Day at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival took on a new meaning for the Spencer and Aaland clans in recent years, as we grew from two happy, laid-back couples to a weary foursome exhausted from chasing a small army of rug rats through throngs of thousands. Amid the chaos, though, it offered a chance to share music, friends, family and fine dining from our front-row tarp as we celebrated fatherhood. Past Daddy Day brunches featured pheasant pot pies, poached salmon, pot roasts and chocolate-dipped strawberries. This year’s menu turns to seafood, but the taste will be bittersweet.

On June 10, New Orleans’ P&J Oyster Co. laid off 11 employees and halted shucking for the first time in 134 years. For Scott Spencer, my longtime Telluride front-of-the-line buddy, it was a sad day. The only musical soiree that Scott loves as much as Telluride Bluegrass is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. An annual trek to P&J was part of his Crescent City ritual. And now it’s gone. For weeks? Months? Years? Forever? Who knows. We can point figures at the obvious greedmongers, but the blame must also be shared by oil-guzzling consumers like us.

So we’ll feast this Sunday on oysters, crab legs and smoked pheasant jambalaya, raise a toast to the hard-working and suddenly unemployed Gulf Coast fishermen and get some well-needed spiritual uplifting by the Drepung Monks, who play Sunday morning’s gospel set.

The 37th staging of Telluride Bluegrass features lots of the favorites you’ve grown to know by their first names (Sam, Béla, Jerry, Peter, Tim and Edgar), the usual jamgrass groups (Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmon) and a few musical twists. I’m looking forward to bluegrass traditionalists like the Del McCoury Band and Hot Rize, plus the Dave Rawlings Machine, Lyle Lovett, Carolina Chocolate Drops and an Irish rockabilly queen named Imelda May. If she’s good enough for Jeff Beck to jam with at a Les Paul tribute, then I’m all ears.

Of course, local options abound for those of you sticking closer to home.

Big-time hip-hop returns to the Abbey tonight (Thursday, June 17) as beatboxing wizard Rahzel comes to town for a 9 p.m. affair. Best known as a member of the Roots, he’s schooled in the old style of Grandmaster Flash, Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie and has collaborated with the likes of Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Björk. The lineup also includes Food Chain, Diabolical Sound Platoon, Scrilla Scratch and Drastek.

Electronica, dance and hip-hop in the form of VibeSquad and Resident Anti-Hero comes to the Abbey at 9 p.m. Friday. The former is the brainchild of Aaron Holstein, who’s often seen playing bass, keyboards and effects for Boulder’s Zilla and Sporque; the latter is hip-hop with an edge. 2 Dubaii opens.

El Paso’s Radio La Chusma returns to Steamworks at 10 p.m. Friday. Having played all over the Southwest from San Diego to Juarez to San Antonio, the group has built a huge following the past decade for fusing roots reggae with Mesoamerican Afro-beats. They recently played their bordertown reggae to a crowd of 13,000 and were featured at the SXSW world music stage.

My two favorite local acts find their way into El Rancho at 9 p.m. Saturday as Montezuma County’s Beautiful Loser Society and our own Western garage darlings, the Lawn Chair Kings, share a bill.

The Summit’s schedule this week includes the one-man band, DJ Drumkit, tonight; a threesome with In a Day, You’re Welcome and History Of on Friday; and the Brent Barry Band with Concepto Tambor Saturday.

More good stuff: the jazz stylings of Prattle from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Starlight; thrice the fun with Back Alley Blues at the Purple Haze, including a 5-7 p.m. FAC and 8-to-midnight sets Friday and Saturday; Black Velvet at the Derailed Saloon from 5-8 p.m. Friday; Jonezy spinning vinyl at the Cosmo from 9-close Friday and Saturday; the weekly Durango Brewing BBQ with cheap dogs, burgers and brews from 4:30-8 p.m. Saturday with live music from the Gentlemen at the Starlight; and a special Father’s Day High Altitude Blues set from 3-7 p.m. Sunday at the Balcony Bar & Grill.

In what’s become somewhat of a Top Shelf tradition, the Planet Bluegrass PR guru, Brian Eyster, shares 9 things to look forward to in Telluride this weekend:

1.Watching percussion virtuosity (almost) overtake string virtuosity on Saturday as Omar Hakim (monster jazz/pop drummer) and Zakir Hussain (Indian tabla master) round out two remarkable string trios.

2. The intensity of dancing, singing and joyous festivation inspired by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros prompting festivarians to follow band leader Alex Ebert and brave the late-night shirtless?

3.Celebrating Peter Rowan’s 30th Telluride as he and Crucial Country (featuring Sam Bush & Jerry Douglas) try to outdo the nuclear reaction at the core of their 1994 Telluride set.

4.The Colorado debut of Mumford & Sons at the Sheridan on Friday night as we find out that the intense international hype surrounding this London-based folk-rock quartet doesn’t begin to capture the passion of their live show.

5.A chance to get up-close with Swedish string trio Väsen’s on Sunday at Elks Park as they share the magic of traditional Swedish music on nyckelharpa, viola and alternately tuned guitar.

6.Imelda May integrating Irish bodhran with American rockabilly. The first of many goosebumps during Ben Sollee’s solo cello/voice set on Friday morning as he weaves Bach, Tom Waits and Appalachian music into a coherent and powerful emotional whole.

7.Watching the sun wane over Wilson Peak as Sarah Jarosz provides the first official music of the festival on Wednesday evening at Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village.

8.Taking a few minutes to focus and slow time as the Drepung Monks create a mandala sand painting over the course of the festival, and then destroy the painting on Sunday evening setting the sand free into the San Miguel River.

9. A Thursday evening that perfectly sums up our music: the classy and legendary Del McCoury Band, the exquisite perfection of Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, and the gritty all-encompassing ‘grass of Tim O’Brien’s electrified late-night set.

Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net



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