R&R | Head for The Hills Comes Into Their Own Bluegrass Identity
by Adam Smith
Jan 23, 2014 | 1522 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEAD FOR THE HILLS (Courtesy photo)
HEAD FOR THE HILLS (Courtesy photo)
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AGENT ORANGE (Courtesy photo)
AGENT ORANGE (Courtesy photo)
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ORGONE (Courtesy photo)
ORGONE (Courtesy photo)
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Orgone Stops Their Non-Stop Funk Globe Trot in Telluride  

One of the few marquee-worthy Fort Collins bluegrass bands is making a necessary pilgrimage to the genre’s in-state Mecca for four dates, sandwiching Telluride in-between before heading to major cities throughout the Midwest. The release of their latest studio album in July of 2013, Blue Rain, has manufactured an upward trajectory for the bluegrass fusion band, inspired by what they claim is a mix of love and misery and comic books.

The audible progression between a self-titled release in 2010, produced by Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt, to the freshness of Blue Rain is primarily due to the elite company they keep. Guest features come from resophonic guitarist Andy Hall of Infamous Stringdusters, trumpeter Gabe Mervine of the Motet, cellist Kathleen Starr, electronic pianist James Thomas and vocalist, banjoist and pedal steel player Erin Youngberg of Uncle Earl. Although the project boasts glowing big-name liner notes, the Hills boys do anything but rely on these names to progress their sound. The accompaniments only push them even deeper into fulfilling their destiny as the next up in a lineage of legends.

Without losing their core identity as a progressive acoustic band keen to organic movements, laced with harmonies and space to improvise, Head for the Hills is one of Colorado’s most promising bands of the last decade. Acclaim from Denver’s Westword in the form of “Best Bluegrass Band” was followed by invitations to showcase their multi-faceted style at industry uber-showcase South By Southwest, where they took “SXSW Critics Picks-Must See” choice.

Since then they have shared stages with Sam Bush, The Flaming Lips, Bruce Hornsby, Little Feat, Yonder Mountain String Band, Tim O’Brien and a list far too long to continue. If you’re like me, co-signs and accolades aren’t always enough convincing needed to get me on board, but the Moon tonight should be the right proving ground.

Head For The Hills, Thu., Jan. 23, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, 10 p.m., $10/$12.

Life moves in the fast lane for the soul-riddled 70s porno funk-like conglomerate Orgone. Their tight lipped horns, sexy vocals, and thrashing world beat grooves have taken them the distance since their last appearance in the Western Slope. Armed with the fresh tunes off their third studio album New You, this L.A. outfit rang in the New Year with Telluride favorites Galactic at the legendary New Orleans venue Tipitina’s. 

With barely enough time to recover from the likes of that party, they quickly shot down to South Florida to hop on the coveted floating music marathon Jam Cruise for what writers on board said was a sensational performance. Their reputation for never-disappointing precedes them, and personnel switches have done nothing to tarnish that reputation,  even among the most astute music addicts.

Once back on land, the eight piece afro-disco outfit was added to mega-festival Wakarusa in Arkansas, as well as the grassroots, completely solar powered event V Elements in San Diego. The band has used their multi-faceted artistry to capture these past and future benchmark moments with art and creative video series other acts might not even consider. 

If Telluride wasn’t shamelessly spoiled enough, this band that once sessioned with Cee Lo Green and Alicia Keys on albums will throw it down heavy at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon before heading East to handle opening duties at the CD release party for Colorado’s funk gem The Motet at the Fillmore in Denver.  

Orgone, Fri., Jan. 24, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, 10 p.m., $15/$18

Punk Pioneers Agent Orange Roll Through Grand Junction 

Agent Orange is an enigmatic band, metaphorically stomping through an evolved 21st century music industry. The Orange, Calif.. punk outfit has little to nothing to offer the digital era beyond the bare minimums for existence on social media platforms and the web. As a writer, the lack of easy access to information about the once-revered power trio is annoying, but as a long time, self-identifying fan who used to spend hours learning the thumping bass line to “Bloodstains,” I love the hell out of their apathetic approach. Whether on purpose or not, it seems genuine. Relying on nothing but timeless music and the old van I suspect takes them around the country is something the American touring circuit sacrificed to achieve the perks of the current polished music spectrum.

The fact that they are still on the road after 35 years, pushing past the tragic death of the once- revolutionary punk genre they represent, should override the fact that only frontman Mike Palm is an original member. What is important is that music used to make sense when a song could be less than two minutes, yet still contain all the raw emotion that summed up the realities of that time. A song played on cheap amps and pawnshop guitars could hold more gravity than any overproduced pop tune. For these reasons, and a much needed desire to jump in the pit, check out Agent Orange and a bunch of bands I’ve never heard of at the Mesa Theater in Grand Junction on Monday.      

Agent Orange with Tankerays, Dirtylektric & Barrel Proof, Mon., Jan. 27, Mesa Theater, 7 p.m., $12

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