Top Shelf

Dancing Pat, Led Zeppelin Cover Night and M4

by Chris Aaland

The Four Corners music community lost one of its most unique characters early Sunday morning after Ridgway’s Patrick Morris was run over by a shuttle van in Telluride.

Known to festivarians throughout the region as “Dancing Pat” for his wild antics at Telluride Bluegrass and other musical gatherings (search for “Dancing Hippie Telluride Bluegrass” on YouTube and you’ll see Pat), he lived life to the fullest. He was a classically trained chef, an organic farmer who supplied restaurants from Ouray to Telluride with herbs, a religious telemark skier who claimed to ski daily for entire seasons, a diehard music fan who journeyed to festivals and concerts near and far, and a world-class jokester.

Shelly and I attended our first Telluride Bluegrass in 1997. We figured out the line routine by 1999 and were baptized into this clandestine group a year later.

In what became an annual family reunion, the Wednesday night line party and subsequent days thrashing about in Town Park were the highlights of each summer. The Front-of-the-Line Gang was a collection of tribes broken down by tarp space. The tapers would go for the grass in front of the sound board. The Kennedy group always anchored down second tarp, front and center. The Spencer/Aaland group went just to the right of Kennedy. Left of him was the Town Park campers. Pat pranced around from tarp to tarp.

Everybody played a role. Dancing Pat’s was comic relief. An unapologetic stoner, Pat was a connoisseur of life’s vices, from fine wines and microbrews to the usual assortment of mind-altering substances that float around ski towns and music festivals. He’s the only guy I can recall being so wasted that he rolled into the San Miguel River while snoozing the night away in his sleeping bag waiting in line for the next day’s land rush. Nobody ever knew if this was accidental or just another of Pat’s many ways of getting a laugh or two.

A prank that I saw him pull countless times was blocking traffic in mock Tiananmen Square protests. He did this with school busses hauling tired festivarians back to the campgrounds, kids pulling wagons hocking coffee, tea and breakfast burritos, and especially Planet Bluegrass personnel.

That prank finally caught up with him. Around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, in front of the San Miguel County Courthouse, Pat and an estimated 30 people tried to board a shuttle that was part of Telluride’s Home Safe Program that transports intoxicated revelers from saloons to their homes. The shuttle could only accommodate around 10 people, though, and Pat and others had to exit and wait for another. Pat lay down in the street in front of the van, unbeknownst to the driver. I’ll spare you the grizzly details.

My best Telluride buddy, Scott Spencer, called me with the news once he’d heard about it while cutting turns in Monday’s fresh powder. Pat would’ve surely enjoyed that day after a winter devoid of snow. Phone calls, emails and Facebook posts spread the word to the rest of the Front-of-the-Line Gang across the country. Emotions ranged from sadness to anger, disbelief to confusion. We all asked, “Why?” but knew that when Pat’s time came, it wouldn’t be in an old folks’ home. It would be a death befitting his larger-than-life persona.

Rest in peace, buddy. We’ll no doubt celebrate you on Wed., June 20, when we gather by the San Miguel to welcome the festival. And we’ll leave an empty chair with a PBR in it for you.

Local musicians unite! KDUR hosts its much-ballyhooed Led Zeppelin Cover Night at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Summit. All of your local favorites, from Group Shower to Kentucky Deluxe and the Scrugglers to Carute Roma will be on hand to test their mettle with “Bonzo’s Montreux,” “Candy Store Rock” and other obscure gems from the Zep catalog. In lieu of Dan Leek’s mysterious handyman accident, the full Lawn Chair Kings will miss their first cover night ever, but some of his bandmates will be on hand in an LCK offshoot band. There’s a $5 cover, but it benefits KDUR, so stop your bellyaching.

Get your groove on at 9 p.m. Sunday at the Abbey with the March Fourth Marching Band, Diego’s Umbrella and the Salt Fire Circus. M4, as they’re known to their fans, takes revelers from the swamps of Louisiana to the Gypsy camps of Eastern Europe to the African jungle by way of Brazil, echoing the deepest grooves of American funk, rock and jazz then boiling it all together in cinematic fashion with high-stepping stilt-acrobatics and dazzling dancers.

Legendary country singer Dwight Yoakam plays a sold-out show at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, which bums me out because I missed the boat on tickets. Yoakam is a rare Top 40 guy that appeals to alt-country fans, roots rockers and country traditionalists.

Moe’s madness this week includes DJ Link on Friday, Peter Robot on Saturday and Musica del Mundo on Sunday.

Come up to the Summit to get down with Hello Doll Face on Thirsty Thursday, Chaz McFlash during 6-9 p.m. happy hour Friday, and UmConscious at 10 p.m. Friday. The UM is a funky, jazzy, live hip-hop act from Denver that blends original beats with poetics and tribal-backed grooves.

Other stuff: The Assortment plays acoustic originals and covers at tonight’s Ska-B-Q in Bodo Park; the Jelly Belly Boogie Band rocks Desperados on Friday; and the Miserabillies do country at the Lost Dog from 7-9 p.m. Sunday.

This week’s Top Shelf list is the set of music I dedicated to Dancing Pat on my “Cask Strength” radio show Monday night on KDUR. All were acts that Pat had seen in Town Park, many of which he held one of my fruity, designer gin drinks during their performances:
1. Leftover Salmon, “Five Alive”
2. New Grass Revival, “Ginseng Sullivan”
3. Del McCoury Band, “Backslidin’ Blues”
4. Hot Rize, “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow”
5. Infamous Stringdusters, “Get it While you Can”
6. Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, “Oh, the Wind and Rain”
7. Grateful Dead, “Dire Wolf” (from Dick’s Picks Vol. 16)
8. Steve Earle & the Bluegrass Dukes, “My Uncle”
9. Guy Clark, “Cold Dog Soup”
10. Willie Nelson “I Gotta Get Drunk”
The wolf came in, I got my cards, we sat down for a game? E-mail me at




Local favorites The Supersuckers make two apperances this week: Saturday in Pagosa at the Outlaw Snowdown and Wednesday in Durango at the Abbey




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