Meat Puppets, Tastes of Durango and the Porter Draw

The venerable masters of punk-country, The Meat Puppets, play the Abbey Theatre this Friday night.

by Chris Aaland

I’ve never liked graveyards, but Sunday found my wife Shelly and I moseying through Telluride’s Lone Tree Cemetery looking for relatives. The families of my great-great-great grandparents, one family Austrian, the other Italian, immigrated to San Miguel County in the late 1800s. Since I spend a lot of time in Telluride, I was curious. An hour later, I spotted the tombstone of one August Telk, my great-great uncle, age 43 when he died in 1949. I found no other Telk monuments, nor those of Leonardelli, the name of my Italian ancestors. But we did come across five Civil War veterans’ graves, right next to each other. Three fought for the Confederacy, the other two for the Union. It moved me that they were buried next to each other, even though they fought for opposing sides. I pictured five crusty old miners who forged friendships and healed bitter feelings about the war in mineshafts and saloons.

It also got me thinking about the old times and concerts I saw in Durango decades ago.

To my recollection, it’s been nearly two decades since The Meat Puppets last played Durango, but they return for an Abbey Theatre engagement at 9 p.m. Friday. I remember seeing a concert poster in the old KDUR studios in the College Union Building in 1989 advertising a Puppets’ show at Fort Lewis College and their “Monsters” album. By blending punk with country and psychedelic rock, the band built a strong reputation as one of the forefathers of what’s now known as alt-country. Songs like “Lake of Fire,” “Sam” and “Plateau” are timeless. The Puppets have been through quite a bit since. They took a five-year hiatus in 1996, in part due to bassist Cris Kirkwood’s battle with drugs and in part due to solo projects by guitarist Curt Kirkwood and drummer Derrick Bostrom. In 2003, Cris was shot twice in the stomach in an altercation with a security guard in a Phoenix post office. Upon his release from jail in 2005, the Puppets quickly reunited with a series of drummers. Shandon Sahm (son of the late, great Doug Sahm) currently sits behind the drum kit. Many of the Puppets’ recent live shows have been in an acoustic format. A few years ago, I caught Curt opening for Son Volt and Drive-By Truckers in Albuquerque. Curt’s assault of Puppets’ classics on acoustic guitar was mind-blowing.

Greensky Bluegrass is back at the Abbey at 9 p.m. tonight, May 13. Based in Kalamazoo, Mich., the five-piece band carved its niche in the jamgrass world made popular by the likes of Yonder Mountain String Band and Railroad Earth. Their recently released fifth album, the live “All Access, Vol. 1,” captures a November 2009 gig in its entirety. Greensky’s dobro player, Anders Beck, was once a staple of the local bluegrass scene, earning his stripes with Broke Mountain and the Wayword Sons. Since adding Beck a few years back, Greensky has elevated its game.

A sure sign of spring is the Taste of Durango, which happens from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday in downtown Durango. You know the drill: buy coins to exchange for tasty grub and adult beverages and support Manna Soup Kitchen. Last year’s event raised more than $11,800. And please leave Fido at home. Use some of those leftover coins at Steamworks from 3-8 p.m. Sunday for Aftertaste 2010 in their courtyard under the tent. Tunes will be spun by the likes of DJ Doubled, DJ M.Elle, Smiley Coyote, Benjamin K and Niko.

One of Durango’s most artistic couples, jazz musician Jeff Solon and artist Karyn Gabaldon, will host a joint CD and book release at Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts from 5-8 p.m. Friday. Solon’s latest effort, “Conversations,” is a duet recording with guitarist Kevin McCarthy. Solon plays tenor sax, harmonica and flute and nearly every song is an original composition. Gabaldon will release her book, The Golden Thread, at the event. “It was a creative winter for us, as the snow piled higher and higher, we used the time well and did these projects,” Solon said.

A band that’s quickly generating some buzz around these parts is the Porter Draw, an Albuquerque outfit that weaves bluegrass with old country and punk. Their latest CD, “Trouble,” has caught my ear at KDUR and I’m anxious to catch their live act at the Summit at 9:30 p.m. Friday. The story behind their name is an interesting one. If you’ve ever traveled on I-25 between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, you’ve passed an exit for Porter Draw. It turns out the arroyo was the sight of one of the deadliest train wrecks in the country. A Denver & Rio Grande Southern train crashed on a washed-out bridge at Porter Draw in 1904, killing 97 passengers. Strangely, this inspired the band’s moniker. Kentucky Deluxe opens.

Our local barkeepers always come up with clever ways of bringing in business, many of which include live music. The Summit’s Scottie Sindelar is one such animal. Tonight’s theme is “Come as your 10th birthday outfit” and features DJ Benjamin K, DJ Tricerahops and Smiley Coyote. Fortunately, I can’t fit into my old Cub Scouts uniform.

The Balcony Bar & Grill sports live music from 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. This week’s lineup includes Glen Goss tonight, High Altitude Blues on Friday, the Get Backs on Saturday (3-7 p.m., a slight deviation from the norm), Terry Rickard on Sunday and Gigi Love & Michael Coble on Wednesday.

Elsewhere: Jazz by Prattle from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Starlight; The Badly Bent at the Pagosa Pub Works at 8 p.m. Friday; The Chills at the Purple Haze 5-7 p.m. and 8-midnight Friday and again from 8-midnight Saturday; the Get Backs in their second gig of the night from 9-close Saturday at the Starlight; the Formless with Left Foot Green at the Summit on Saturday; and Musica del Mundo from 9-close Sunday at the Starlight.

Telluride’s Civil War graves inspired this week’s Top Shelf list — my favorite Civil War-themed songs:

- “Ben McCullough,” Steve Earle

- “Confederate Soldier,” Chatham County Line

- “Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home,” the Long Ryders

- “Powderfinger,” Neil Young

- “Raleigh and Spencer,” done by countless bluegrass bands

You can stomp down the flowers that grow around my grave? E-mail me at



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