Catch some free music this weekend from Larry Keel and Trout Steak Revival, courtesy of 970 AvonFest | VailDaily.com

Catch some free music this weekend from Larry Keel and Trout Steak Revival, courtesy of 970 AvonFest

From left: Jenny Keel, Larry Keel and Jared Pool are the musicians behind Keel's new record, "One."
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The 970AvonFest takes over Avon this weekend, bringing a full schedule of endurance competitions including running, cycling, swimming and even a triathlon for amateur and professional athletes. But in addition to a weekend of sports, there will also be two headlining concerts on Friday, Sept. 6 and Saturday, Sept. 7 from Larry Keel and Trout Steak Revival respectively.

Larry Keel is regarded among friends and authorities in the music industry as one of the best flat-picking guitar players around. Between his solo work, frequent collaborations with others – including Tony Rice, Bill Monroe, Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident – and his side project with Keller Williams, Keller and the Keels, the guitarist has worked on 26 albums.

After 30 years in the business, Keel has watched music distribution change from cassettes to CD’s to digital purchase to streaming subscription models, and that’s driven his desire to remain an independent artist even more with his new record, “One.”

“It’s a self-produced, self-released thing. I’m selling it on my website and selling it at shows, and sort of keeping a little more control on it,” he said.

By being an independent seller, Keel gets to learn about how, when and where his music sells, and who’s buying it.

“I like holding onto my musical property,” he said. “At a certain point, there’s really no level of accountability (when it comes to radio play). Having the hands-on thing seems to be a little more effective for my model.”

“One” was recorded in his road manager’s sound-proof basement, which gave the musicians who contributed to the record uninterrupted sessions of artistic freedom. One of the things he’s most proud of on the record is what he and his longtime collaborators, Jared Pool and his wife Jenny Keel, were able to accomplish.

“Their ability to take a winding road and take it as long as you can go,” he specified.

Keel and Jenny have been playing together for, as he puts it, “a great big handful of years now.” She plays upright bass, sings backing harmonies and helps Keel write songs as well.

“We steer the ship together,” Keel said.

Keel’s main goal with his live shows is bringing people together and getting everyone on the same wavelength for a couple of hours. He likes to make everybody feel happy and forget their troubles.

“We just get up there and give it everything we got and try to connect with everybody in the room,” he said.

Larry Keel’s free Friday concert starts at 7:30 p.m. in Nottingham Park, and will be followed by another free show from Trout Steak Revival the next day.

Fresh off a summer cross-country tour, the Denver-based Trout Steak Revival returns to the area for the second time this summer. In June, the band kicked off the Vail Summer Bluegrass Series in Solaris Plaza. The 970 AvonFest show offers another chance to catch its upbeat, new-school bluegrass.

Though based out of Denver now, Trout Steak Revival has roots in Eagle County and returned this summer for the Vail Summer Bluegrass Series in Solaris Plaza.
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Since winning the 2014 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, the band saw growth, development and an increased commitment to the project. It has since won an Emmy Award for its contributions to the soundtrack of a PBS special on the Rocky Mountains.

Mandolin and guitar player Steve Foltz’s first job was at Slifer Designs in Edwards – after the Telluride competition, Foltz left his career in architecture to pursue music full-time.

The whole band has connections to the Vail Valley. It’s played at the since-shuttered Finnegan’s Wake in Avon and at Agave. The members came up with the band name while backpacking at Sylvan Lake in Eagle. They’d ask whoever was going fishing to “go get a trout steak,” Foltz said, adding that the fish is too small for a steak. Thus, Trout Steak Revival was born.

Music has been a big part of many of the band members’ lives from a young age. Foltz comes from a musical family and learned guitar, piano and tuba while in school. The first instrument bassist Casey Houlihan learned was the trombone, and banjo player Travis McNamara is the son of a music teacher.

“We all know that arts and music programs are being cut left and right in public schools, so that’s one of our top priorities as a group,” Foltz said.

A portion of profits the band makes from merchandise sales is donated to a music foundation, and they’ve also given out instruments to schools across the country.

Trout Steak Revival plays at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. This concert is also free to attend in Nottingham Park. Get to know the band before heading to the show by watching the Newsroom Jams video.

For more information about 970 AvonFest and the activities available – including kids’ inflatables and games, food vendors, an interactive expo, a beer and wine garden, lawn games and more – visit 970avonfest.org.

Ross Leonhart contributed reporting to this story.