Top Shelf

Road rage, Mountain Madness and River Days

by Chris Aaland 

When did I become a grumpy old man? I do not suffer rude and stupid people as easily as I used to. My primary pet peeves revolve around bad driving, namely people who can’t negotiate double left hand turns and, in particular, don’t understand the signs that say “Keep Right Except to Pass.” Want to know why so many people keep dying in head-on collisions on US 160 west of town? Rude people traveling in the single lane of traffic pass violently and smash into people in the left lane of traffic heading the opposite direction who don’t know it’s state law to move into the right lane. Others think they can use the westbound turn lane just before the bridge at the Doubletree Hotel as an acceleration lane to pass traffic. One woman in her twenties decided it was her God-given right to cut me off in this lane a week ago as I successfully negotiated the double left turn, signaled to move into the turn lane, only to have her speed by me, lay on her horn and give me the old one-finger salute as she sped off to her trailer park heaven up Lightner Creek Road. Brunettes: The Other White Trash.

As old age sets in, I find myself resistant to change. When a favorite restaurant or business closes its doors, I’m reluctant to enter the new shop. To wit: I still long for the dark, smoky ambiance of Farquahrts. Though I have nothing against the Derailed Saloon, its owners, menu and vision, it’s just not the place I used to sneak into underage to see Leftover Salmon and Matt “Guitar” Murphy.

Along those same lines, I’d been reluctant to visit the Mountain Madness Brewing Co., which blossomed out of the old Sweeney’s north of town. I loved Sweeney’s. The Grubsteak fed a monster of a dinner to me and my best friend from high school on his athletic recruiting trip here in the spring of 1986 — a 24-oz. prime rib with all the trimmings that helped sway each of our decisions to attend Fort Lewis. Forget the fact that my memorable introductory Sweeney’s meal never got digested … a trip to Party Time Chapter II with our student hosts and too many pitchers of 3.2 Meister Bräu resulted in Shawn and I painting the motel parking lot a new hue of Technicolor yawn. But that’s not the point. I now had a new favorite restaurant, one that I’d turn to for date nights, anniversaries and dinners with out-of-town friends and family for decades to come. The Southwest calamari, Cajun prime rib and Korean tri tip became standard orders.

So my man Chuckles hounded me relentlessly to make my first trek into Mountain Madness. I’d heard that the downstairs woodwork had been removed and that the famous fern that hung over the stairway was gone. Chuckles ensured me that a lot of the original upstairs woodwork remained, which eased some of my hesitation. So I drug Otto and Shelly into the brewery for appetizers, pizzas and drinks. What we found was a friendly, laid-back environment where the beer (mostly local microbrews to be augmented by their own ales later this summer) was ice cold and the eats tasty. A large, fully retractable garage door opens from the bar area to the large patio, filling the indoor space with a cool breeze and giving outdoor patrons views of the bar. The servers have already developed a rapport with regulars from the north side of town and the valley. Though we live on the opposite side of the county, we’ll be back frequently. I was also excited to see that Mountain Madness books live music. From 6-10 p.m. Saturday, they’ll host bluesman Kirk James.

Something relatively new on the local music front is the June Happy Hour House Concert Series at the Rochester Hotel and Bar. The brainchild of former KSUT boss Beth Lamberson, shows are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. each Wednesday this month in the Rochester’s courtyard. Tickets cost $10 at the door and food and the Rochester’s signature cocktails will be sold. The remaining dates include Colorado-based singer-songwriter and Blackjack Hall of Famer Darryl Purpose (indeed, Kenny Rogers isn’t the only guitar slinger obsessed with poker) this Wednesday, Wayward Vessel, an Oregon bluegrass band featuring former Pagosa Hot Strings mandolin player Josiah Payne on June 20, and Bruce Mandel, a former Durango singer-songwriter now living in New England, on June 27.

The Denver rock trio FaceMan plays a free gig at 5 p.m. Friday at the Derailed Saloon. Formed in 2008, the group is currently touring in support of its second album, “Feeding Time,” which features the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Best known for their soulful and energetic live performances, FaceMan consists of David Thomas Bailey on seven-string guitar, Dean Hirschfield on drums and Faceman on guitar and vocals.

The Summit’s slate this week includes A Dub Rock Band at 10 p.m. tonight (Thurs., June 7), DJ Ralphsta & friends at 10 p.m. Friday and Strange Jerome at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Animas River Days takes place all weekend long. Social highlights include the fourth annual movie night at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Smiley Building (including the Reel Paddling Film Festival, local photo, film and kids’ poster contests, food and drink from Zia, Ska and Compañeros Margaritas), Saturday’s 5 p.m. River Parade from the 32nd Street put-in to the Cundiff Park takeout and Saturday’s 7 p.m. post-parade party at Ska Brewing (live music from Cosmic Accident).
Elsewhere: The local alt-country outfit Group Shower do tonight’s Ska-B-Q at 5 p.m.; Pete Giuliani has a pair of solo gigs, first at Trimble Hot Springs at 6:30 p.m. tonight and then at 6 p.m. Friday at the Four Leaves Winery at 525 Main Ave.; the Kirk James Blues Band returns to the Balcony from 6-10 p.m. Friday; and Jack Ellis picks acoustic blues guitar at the Doubletree’s Animas River Café at 5 p.m. Saturday.

This week’s Top Shelf list pays homage to legendary flat-picker Doc Watson, who died last week at age 89. Though he was a true musical genius, the bronze sculpture of Doc playing guitar on a park bench in Boone, N.C., simply reads, “Just one of the people.”

The color of the sun and his eyes were green? Email me at