Top Shelf

Blues ’n’ Brews and Strings ’n’ Sol

by Chris Aaland

Like most of you, I felt great disgust while watching the Ray Rice domestic violence debacle unfold. I was prepared to scrawl a 1,000-word rant on the topic, but edited it for brevity. Rice’s indefinite suspension and voided contract are certainly warranted. He committed a heinous crime and punishment should be swift and severe. 

But it wasn’t, at least initially. The NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlantic City PD and New Jersey State Police didn’t act swiftly, and initial punishments were nothing more than a slap on a bully’s wrist. 

Rice was first asked to take some anger management classes and received a two-game suspension before TMZ obtained and released the video from the since-closed Revel Hotel & Casino. TMZ? WTF?

We place our weekend warriors, our gladiators of the gridiron, on such a high pedestal that it’s tough to knock them down. And I’m just as guilty as any other fan, and I feel dirty because of it. For shame. My daughter, my wife, my sisters, my late mother and dearly departed grandmothers deserve better. All women do.

Blues and Brews goers can get a peak into rock’s golden heyday when ’80s folk-punk band the Violent Femmes take the stage in Telluride this weekend.

Sometimes work and play intersect and it’s a good thing. Other times, it’s a nightmare. KSUT is trying to “Hit It and Quit” and meet its budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. As many of you know, I’m KSUT’s membership manager. And while being a radio personality and music scribe affords me plenty of opportunities to attend local concerts and regional festivals, one such event that has never seen my wide ass grace its grounds is Telluride Blues & Brews.

Ah, Blues & Brews … a festival that turns 21 this year. Old enough to sample more than 170 microbrews from over 50 brewers. Three Durango locals — DBC, Ska and Steamworks — are among those pouring at Saturday’s Grand Tasting. DBC and Ska are two of five featured brewers on tap throughout the weekend. But beer drinking is just half the attraction here; besides, I sampled more than enough last weekend at Ska’s annual anniversary bacchanal and the San Juan Brewfest two weeks earlier. The music is the real reason to attend. I can’t count the number of festivals I’ve attended through the years — certainly well over 50. And stand-alone concerts? My guess is that number is close to 500.

But I’ve seen exactly NONE of the acts on the Blues & Brews bill. Not blues legends like Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. Not rockers like the Violent Femmes and Peter Frampton. Not funky bunches like George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, The Meter Men and Black Joe Lewis. 

OK, I booked Porter Batiste Stoltz once for Durango Acoustic Music, a group that featured original Meters’ bassist George Porter, Jr. But that’s it. Just one guy on the bill that I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the rub: KSUT needs to reach its goal before I can head up to Telluride. That means a big day of fundraising today (Thurs., Sept. 11). Support your public radio station by calling 563-0255 or pledging online at and perhaps I’ll be in T-Ride before Friday’s sunset. And you might just get a phone call from me informing you that you’ve won the grand prize: A trip for two to Strings & Sol in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, in mid-December, where you can see nearly a dozen top newgrass bands on the beach … Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, the Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush and more. Even if you hate bluegrass, surely you’d enjoy tropical climes, free top-shelf booze and gourmet grub, snorkeling, diving, fishing, sailing or just relaxing in a hammock. If we don’t hit it, the on-air pitching might last ‘til Friday or (shudder the thought) Saturday.

And I won’t pester you to give to community radio again until our other upstanding local station, KDUR, holds its fall membership drive later this fall. I promise.

Step back in time Sunday as Steamworks Brewing Co. celebrates its 18th anniversary. Patrons will enjoy 1996 pricing for pints and pitchers. 

“We’re rolling back beer prices to celebrate our anniversary and thank the community that has supported Steamworks all these years,” said co-founder Kris Oyler. That means $2.50 pints and $10 pitchers.

Later this week BREW Pub & Kitchen will debut two new beer offerings:  Jane, a unique and straightforward farmhouse ale, and Ophelia, a crazy-good American IPA with lemongrass & locally grown yarrow — much of which was lovingly tended to in Lainie’s garden. Lucky folks at last weekend’s Ska anniversary got to sneak a taste of Ophelia. I personally remember her well: I made the rounds to nearly all of the brewers, but hit the five locals first. Ophelia was my second four-ounce taster of a night that yielded one hell of a hangover the next day. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Moe’s slate this week includes Funked Up Fridays with Little Wilderness performing live on the patio at 8 p.m., dancing to JBones at 8 p.m. Saturday and live music with Whale Logic at 8 p.m. Sunday.

And at 5 p.m. tonight, The Black Velvet 5 plays the Balcony with special guest Julia Popham sitting in on violin. The 18-year-old is part of Carnegie Hall’s first U.S. National Youth Orchestra and has played the Kennedy Center, the Great Hall of Moscow, Royal Albert Hall in London and has appeared on BBC, CBS and in the New York Times. 

She’ll join Larry Carver, Nina Sasaki, Ben Gibson, Ben Simpson and Dave Ortiz.

This week’s Top Shelf acknowledges the things I’m looking forward to at Blues & Brews:

•Buddy Guy. Perhaps my last chance to see a living legend.

•The Meter Men. I arrived late to the funky party, but damned if I’m not ready for it.

•The Grand Tasting. Three hours of full-contact sampling with thousands of like-minded boozers.

•Peter Frampton, if only for the sight of BIC lighters illuminating the valley.

•Getting the chance to scream the words to “Add It Up” during the Violent Femmes’ set.

•Grooving to my favorite retro R&B act, Black Joe Lewis.

•Spending it with my best friend from high school, Jay Ernst, who is flying in from Kansas City on Friday.

•Another weekend’s stay at Casa de Spencer in Mountain Village.

It’s got something to do with luck? Email me at Blues and Brews goers can get a peak into rock’s golden heyday when ’80s folk-punk band the Violent Femmes take the stage in Telluride this weekend.