Streaking, Folk 'n Bluegrass and Men Who Grill

by Chris Aaland

On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken, Jr., broke one of baseball’s most revered records, one many thought unbreakable: Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old standard for consecutive games played. On that night, the Baltimore slugger played in his 2,131st straight regular season contest. His streak would eventually extend to 2,632 in a row, spanning parts of 17 seasons before ending in 1998.

Being a sports fan, streaks have always fascinated me. My job in the Fort Lewis College Athletic Department requires me to chronicle momentous occasions for the record book. During my first year as sports information director back in 1992 – before many of the current Skyhawks were even born – I saw longtime Durango High School teacher Tim Fitzpatrick sink 39 consecutive free throws. His record still stands nearly 20 years later. And so began a professional and personal addiction.

I’ve also built up a few streaks of my own. I’ve attended the Telluride Bluegrass Festival 14 straight years. For those keeping track, that’s 56 days of live music in Town Park (the same number as Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak). In particularly good years, I saw every single act, morning, noon and night, rain or shine.

As an “Iron Man” festivarian, my regularity isn’t limited to just T-Ride. I’ve also been to13 straight RockyGrasses, 10 consecutive Durango Bluegrass Meltdowns and every single Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival. To be fair, the latter has only existed for five years.

All streaks are on the line this year, though. My wife, Shelly, is in her 40th week of pregnancy, due to end any minute now (quite possibly between Monday morning’s writing of Top Shelf and Thursday, when this week’s Telegraph hits the street).

I won’t be in the crowd this weekend for the Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass Festival (Friday through Sunday), as Friday marks Baby Gus’ medically-predicted drop date. Thus, I won’t be setting up camp on Reservoir Hill, chaperoning Otto to the kids’ tent, hanging with the boys from Breckenridge Brewing or hiking down the hill to the free concert in Pagosa Springs Town Park (4-8 p.m. Friday evening). Still, my job is to advise you, dear reader, on what not to miss. I’ll be with you in spirit.

The P-Town lineup is filled with lots of the usual suspects from past Folkwest festers (the folks who produce both this week’s hoedown and Labor Day’s Four Corners Folk Festival): the unapologetically happy Virginia folksters in Eddie from Ohio, legendary Celtic band Solas, new acoustic innovators Crooked Still and many more. There’s also a trio of Colorado’s best up-and-coming acts, Spring Creek (featuring a new lineup now that former bassist/vocalist Jessica Smith has gone and gotten herself engaged to Travers Chandler of Avery County fame — which happened onstage at April’s Meltdown, no less), Finnders and Youngberg and Grant Farm (banjo wizard Andy Thorn and guitar maestro Tyler Grant, aka the lesser-known half of the Emmitt-Nershi Band).

And then there’s Town Mountain, a rising star in the bluegrass universe. Durango audiences were introduced to them at the Abbey Theatre shortly after they won the RockyGrass band competition in 2005. They later stole the show at the 2010 Meltdown, cementing their local legacy. And now there’s a direct link to the Durango music scene in Jon Stickley, a multi-instrumentalist who recently joined Town Mountain in what equates to a sports-style trade that sent longtime bassist/guitarist Barrett Smith to the Shannon Whitworth Band in exchange for the former founding member of the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band.

If the Pagosa experience doesn’t crank your shaft, head west to the Dolores River Festival, a one-day affair that takes place at Dolores’ Joe Rowell Park starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. The diverse lineup includes hip-hop (the Flobots), rock (the Tijerina Band), singer-songwriter fare (the Elizabeth Rose Trio) and world beat (the Afrobeat Minions). Lots of Montezuma County acts will also share the stage, plus there’s river-themed entertainment like free raft rides, an inflatable kayak race, a river dog contest and a floating costume parade.

Men Who Grill, a culinary competition benefiting the Women’s Resource Center, happens from 11 a.m. ‘til 3 p.m. Saturday in the 1200 block of Main Ave. Teams will serve up their best grilled goods (beef, pork, chicken, seafood, veggies, fruits, etc.) for a paying audience ($15 advance, $20 at the gate) and compete in such categories as Best Cuisine, People’s Choice, Ladies’ Choice and Best Theme/Décor.

Something new is Durango’s Deck, an exhibit that showcases 54 artists from the Durango area. Each artist (painters, sculptors, welders, etc.) has created artwork representing a playing card that they randomly selected. The works will be auctioned at the First Friday Durango Block Party from 2-10 p.m. between College and 7th on Main Ave. Actual 54-card decks displaying each piece of art are available for $20. This free, kid-friendly street fair raises funds for the Mountain Mayhem Art Coalition.

Come up to get down at the Summit this week for Thirsty Thursday with DJ Benjamin K and Make Believe tonight, the First Friday after-party with Rass Kass & the Insects, and the Great Funkitier Saturday.

Firkin eh! Steamworks Brewing Co. continues its special monthly firkin tapping at 3 p.m. Friday with its own version of the popular beer cocktail, “Skip and Go Naked.” Colorado Kölsch is the base, with peach simple syrup and lemon juice and zest added in the brewing process.

Elsewhere: This week’s Ska-B-Q features the funk stylings of Mirror Ball tonight (Thursday, June 3); the Boogie Band does the Derailed Saloon Friday; Pete Giuliani plays solo at Vallecito’s Schank House Friday; and Black Velvet returns to the Diamond Belle Saloon Friday and Saturday.

This week’s Top Shelf list chronicle’s the top three albums in Town Mountain’s catalog. Then again, they only have three albums – each a must-own item for bluegrass fanatics:

“Original Bluegrass & Roots Country,” 2005. The grand daddy of them all, one that introduced Robert Greer and Jesse Langlais to the world.

“Heroes & Hertics,” 2008. Haunting covers of Springsteen and Son Volt highlight this set.

“Steady Operator,” 2011. Their latest was produced by former Del McCoury Band bassist Mike Bub. •

I’m just an old, poor boy on the river? Email me at



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