Top Shelf

Massive anniversary, Steve Earle and Papa Otis

by Chris Aaland

Dance around the maypole, grab a cold Mexican cerveza and kiss April’s windy ass goodbye. The month kicks off with a veritable hodgepodge of entertainment options ranging from Latin dance to string quartets to Crescent City street music to something called mountain stomp.

Durango Massive Productions celebrates is fourth anniversary by hosting the Youngblood Brass Band at 9 p.m. Friday. According to their promo, “Youngblood flouts convention in an ecstatic, raucous and incendiary fashion by taking the sacred form of a New Orleans brass band and fusing it into a punked-out, hip-hop behemoth of groove and purpose.” Though they’ve been around for 15 years, the latest incarnation finds itself working with a UK label (Tru Thoughts) best known for producing deep soul and hip-hop. Durango Massive’s eclectic anniversary also features local acts Hello Dollface and Booty Conda. Though Durango Massive and its driving force, Eugene Salaz, produce events primarily at the ACT, they’ve also booked at the Summit, the Hank, Taste of Durango, Oktoberfest and other venues around the state.

The Community Concert Hall presents ETHEL’s “Grace” at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The string quartet ETHEL invigorates contemporary music with exuberance, intensity, imaginative programming and exceptional artistry. Comprised of Ralph Farris (viola), Dorothy Lawson (cello), Kip Jones (violin) and Tema Watstein (violin), ETHEL’s “Grace” is a journey to redemption through music.

Stop the presses! Steve Earle & the Dukes play the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Fri., June 13. Tickets go on sale on Fri., May 2. Throughout his career, Earle has followed in the footsteps of his mentors, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. The Wall Street Journal called him “one of the most gifted and consistent singer-songwriters of the generation that followed Bob Dylan.” High praise, indeed, but I take exception with the “one of” portion of that phrase. Name someone who has exceeded the quality, variety and strength of his canon of work the past 25 years and I’ll buy you a beer. I advise you to buy tickets early for this one. Earle’s show will sell out.

Steamworks goes wild with Wild Cherry for this month’s Firkin Friday. “The base is the unique beer style Berliner Weisse, which is a very light wheat ale,” said brewmaster Ken Martin. Its mouthfeel is light bodied with a dry finish and no sensation of alcohol. “There’s also traditionally very high carbonation and a clean lactic sourness that dominates the flavor.” Steamworks knows a thing or two about this style. Its Berliner Weisse topped the German-Style Sour Ale category at the 2012 World Beer Cup, earning a gold award in the international judging. “As a sour beer, the traditional Berliner Weisse is typically served with a shot of flavored syrup, such as fruit syrups, so it made perfect sense for us to go wild with cherries in our firkin this month,” added brewer Spencer Roper. It gets tapped at 3 p.m. Friday and won’t last long.

Gazpacho hosts its annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Highlights include a Zumbathon (1:30-2:45), piñata-breaking contest (2:45), performance by the Ballet Folklorico Dancers (3:30-4:30), beer and margarita garden featuring DJ Euphoria, and more. Gazpacho will donate $2 per El Centro Margarita sold Friday and Saturday to El Centro, which supports the retention of Hispanic and multicultural students at FLC.  At their graduation ceremony earlier in the day, 2014 graduates will receive a voucher for a complimentary drink of choice. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Support our local music education programs with the School Music Extravaganza from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Whalen Gymnasium. Participating schools include Bayfield Elementary, Bayfield Middle School, St. Columba, Escalante Middle School and Durango High School. Join Alpine Bank’s music education Facebook challenge and the bank will award $500 to the music education program that receives the most votes. The contest runs through Friday.

Papa Otis & the Phantoms of the Rio Grande play the Balcony at 6 p.m. Friday. Papa Otis has recently morphed with members of the Flume Canyon Boys to churn out something totally original. The lineup includes Steve Mendias (stomp box, parade snare, vocals), Jeff Moorehead (resonator guitar, banjo, harmonica), Richard Barnes (banjo, Prohibition Era trumpet), Guy Ewing (standup bass), Josh Standard (vintage Gretsch acoustic guitar) and Art Woodard (mandolin). Papa Otis dresses in Turn of the Century/Prohibition Era garb and turns bluegrass, ragtime, blues, country and punk into what Mendias calls mountain stomp music. “We dress in that fashion a little bit, but we’re modern,” he says. “We do a lot of Mississippi-style blues with acoustic instrumentation, but we’ll also turn country tunes, punk songs and surf into old-time stomp music.” Their playlist exposes a variety of influences, ranging from Johnny Cash to Iggy Pop.

Also of note: Jack Tallmadge does country music his way at 6 p.m. tonight (Thurs., May 1) at the Sporting News Grill in the new Holiday Inn; and Pete Giuliani plays a solo acoustic show at Vallecito’s Shank House from 6-10 p.m. Saturday.

Papa Otis’ Mendias provides this week’s Top 10 list, which thinks inside the box rather than outside … the box set, that is. He’ll just call this volume one of his Top 10 albums of all time.

1. Hank Williams, “40 Greatest Hits,” 1978.
2. Dave Brubeck, “Take 5,” 1959. Brilliant, odd-time signatures that are so relaxing. How to play? Don’t count ’em.
3. Muddy Waters, “Live at Newport 1960,” 1960. Muddy gives the jazz snobs a “what fer.”
4. Various artists, “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968,” 1972. Cool stuff I’d never heard. Jam bands need to play this kind of stuff. Please.
5. MC5, “Kick Out the Jams,” 1969. These guys just made me think to buy two American flags, one to wrap around me and another to start a fire with. I love you Detroit, USA.
6. Various artists, “The Sun Records Collection,” 1994. Of course.
7. Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band, “Trout Mask Replica,” 1969. The illegitimate sons of Howlin’ Wolf.
8. Beck, “Mellow Gold,” 1996. Bluesy slide guitar awesomeness. My favorite hip hop album.
9. Robert Johnson, “The Complete Recordings,” 1990. I guess it’s him and me and the devil makes three.
10. Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak,” 1976. Anthemic, rockin’ Les Paul guitars in unison in a “Cowboy Song.” It just doesn’t really get any better.

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