A year has been enough time for the Western Slope music scene to see important new beginnings and monumental benchmarks for its biggest sonic institutions. The reopening of the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon filled a void that has now solidified great year-round music scheduling. As a result, moments with the likes of the Cave Singers, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and Space Capone became a reality. The Ride Festival survived and brought the illustrious David Byrne back to Town Park, making a statement that the event is here to stay, with the intention of mixing marquee acts with new talent we’d inevitably fall for. Telluride Bluegrass Festival marked 40 years with genre masters Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and Bela Fleck, but also brought out Colorado favorites The String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band for statement sets during their NightGrass series.
Two decades of craft beer and tunes were celebrated at Telluride Blues & Brews, with highlight performances from Jim James, Gary Clark Jr., and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Little did we know that Melissa Etheridge would blow us away that same weekend with a two- and-a-half-hour set of guitar swapping and entirely relevant rock star pageantry.
Montrose, Durango and Grand Junction have all become increasingly important hubs for rock, funk and electronic circuit bands that never before had made the jump to the region. The remodeling and retrofitting of Animas City Theater in Durango has given us doses of Dumpstaphunk, Sage Francis, and Hot Buttered Rum in the venue they deserve.
KOTO enlisted the incredible Thievery Corporation in their live band format for the Doo-Dah, and SBG Productions brought Portugal, The Man to do their thing at the Telluride Conference Center. Both bands can typically be found at the top of the bill for massive festivals, yet we had them a few blocks away, in our finest venues.
The Relatives blew us away after a 30-year hiatus, the Pimps of Joytime got us grooving hard to their power funk and Galactic’s incredible Superjam was only outdone by Nigel Hall Band’s full-personnel switch with the Motet and Adam Deitch during Telluride Jazz Festival.
Sound Tribe Sector 9 rose to the occasion and crushed two sold-out nights of heavy live electronica, at a time in their career when they have nothing to prove. The Bright Light Social Hour surprised everyone at the Elks Club with their outstanding high-energy dance rock performance in Telluride’s smallest venue.
The Monophonics funked us up, Sea Wolf serenaded our hearts and minds and everyone loved the Soft White Sixties playing two shows in one night in two different venues. If that isn’t rock and roll in the modern era, then what is?
It would be nearly impossible to pick one of these moments as a relative best, given the context of each, and the many completely different levels of satisfaction. And justice is not served by saying this bluntly, but it has been a major year for audiophiles such as myself lucky enough to call upon this Western Slope music lifestyle. It’s important to reflect, and now it’s time to do it all again, as the year wraps up with the strength we have come to expect.
Fort Knox Five Give Funk
If vetting a band is a way of convincing potential fans to check them out in the live setting, then Fort Knox 5 may be the easiest sell on the club circuit. This four-member DJ/live instrument group has performed in 30 countries on five continents alongside the Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, James Brown and Diplo at some of the largest global festivals that exist. Their high-powered funk and break music includes remixes of Louis Armstrong and Bob Marley, as well as recruitment collaborations with the godfather of hip-hop Afrika Bambaataa. Beatport, the source for charting underground electronic music, has seen their tracks consistently in the Top 10 among varied subgenres.
Their production reach doesn’t stop their. Television shows like Fringe and the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove have enlisted Fort Knox Five for soundtrack-enhancing tunes. The film Stand Up Guys starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken features one of their songs, as do hit video games NBA Live, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Need For Speed.
Impressive and undeniable resume aside, it is the uncanny ability these guys posses when it comes to breaking music down to its roots and then rebuilding elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop, reggae and electronica into fortified funk vehicles. With 10 years of rocking clubs under their belt, it’s a given that the Moon will be going off this Saturday, with this Washington D.C. crew on the decks.
Fort Knox 5, Sat., Jan 4, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, 10 p.m., $7/$10
Nappy Roots Mile High Tour Comes to Telluride
Last year Telluride only saw one hip-hop group perform within the city limits. The venue was Honga’s, formerly the legendary Roma Bar, and it would also be the only music event hosted in that room all year. The show sold out with ease, and the Nappy Roots gave patrons one of the best live performances on the winter calendar. The Kentucky rap quartet drilled the crowd with throwback hits from its chart topping album Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz, but also tested their knowledge of newer releases The Pursuit of Nappyness and Nappy Dot Org. Even if you didn’t know the words, it was easy to digest the energetic onstage theatrics and clean vocal delivery.
For longtime fans of the group, over their more-than-a decade of consistent output, the high- energy Southern hip-hop display was on par with their infectious charisma while on tour with Jay-Z during their rise to fame 10 years ago. After pouring out liquor for fans during their extended set, the crowd was thirsty for more. Next Wednesday they will have a chance to scratch that rap itch that seems to be undesirably rare in Western Colorado.
The Nappy Roots, Wed., Jan. 8, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, 10 p.m., $15/$20