A view a Vail Valley’s music scene | VailDaily.com

A view a Vail Valley’s music scene

Todd Altschuler
Vail, CO, Colorado
Eric Goodline | Special to the DailyWarren Haynes, lead guitarist and singer for the rock band Gov't Mule, shredded his Gibson Firebird on stage at Dobson Ice Arena on Saturday night.

When I moved to the mountains from New Haven, Conn., I figured the one part

of life that would be a downgrade would be the live-music scene. There, I

had the legendary Toad’s Place in my backyard and was a short train ride

from New York City, the live-music Mecca. Here, I figured I would have to

take the dreaded two-hour drive to Denver a few times a month in order to

get my fix. What I found instead is a thriving music scene with great local

bands, committed fans and lots of promoters dedicated to bringing in some

amazing national talent.

I’ll never forget some words of wisdom that a seasoned veteran of live music

gave me at my first JazzFest in New Orleans in 1997. Seeing me struggle to

decide between seeing Bela Fleck or Michael Ray, he said I can’t be

everywhere and that I should never judge JazzFest solely by the music I get

to see but instead by the shows that I miss. This is a philosophy that I’ve

used outside of New Orleans and one that has been a necessity in Vail of

late. It seems like every night, I am faced with a decision not of whether

to go out and see music but which band to go see.

On Wednesday, I felt lucky because the bands were scattered. At 6 p.m., as

the snow was falling on Vail Village, New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band

unleashed their party vibe into the packed streets. What a trip it was to

see members of a band from a warm climate wrapped in blankets but still able

to blast funky favorites out of its horns. Afterward, a large portion of the

crowd took the short walk over to Samana Lounge, where Minturn band Little

Hercules kept the funk rolling until people were forced out at closing time.

Come Thursday night, some tough choices had to be made. Music fans were

faced with deciding between one-man band Keller Williams, local phenoms the

Laughing Bones and Stealin’ Strings, a group of up-and-comers from

Wisconsin. For days, there were rumors circulating that Keller would be a

special guest at the Laughing Bones show, which would be awesome, but I

decided to go to the Sandbar for Stealin’ Strings because they were the only

band playing that I had never seen. It turned out to be a great show, and I

was turned on to a very special musician named Matt Turner, bass-player

extraordinaire. I’m not going to say that he’s on the level of Les Claypool

or Victor Wooten, because not many people are, but he’s awesome and has an

original sound.

Then there was Saturday. Gov’t Mule was playing at the Dobson Ice Arena

while national touring act Trevor Hall played to a sold-out crowd at the

Sandbar and Springdale Quartet, a cool bunch of jammers out of Boulder,

played Agave. I had no decision to make since Gov’t Mule has been one of my

favorite bands since its inception. As Jersey Gerity, publisher of Mousike

Magazine, likes to say about Mule frontman Warren Haynes, “Anytime your two

side projects are the Allmans and The Dead, you have to be pretty good.”

This was my first show since they traded out bass players late last fall.

After a nice warm-up with Scotty Stoughton’s Bonfire Dub at Samana, I walked

into Dobson for the opening notes of the show, and Mule rocked all night.

The integral moment of the show for me came in the second song, when they

played “Thorazine Shuffle,” a song in which the bass player is thrown into

the gantlet and has to play lead over superstars Haynes and Matt Abts. The

new bass player, Jorgen Carlsson, played it perfectly, and his thunderous

bass brought a hard edge back to the band that has been missing in recent

years. For the next three hours, the band tore through Mule originals and

covers from some of the most notable bands in rock history, Led Zeppelin and

Pink Floyd. The most amazing part of Gov’t Mule is that it plays these songs

so well that they might actually be better than the original versions.

So, there it was, a week that made me realize you don’t have to live in New

York City, New Orleans or Denver to enjoy a huge array of live music. So now

I must rest up so I’m ready to start it all over again on Wednesday, when

Mountain Jam, an Allman Brothers tribute band made up of all-star members

from other area bands, takes the stage at Samana. On second thought, if I

leave the office now, I might be able to catch some of The Glitch Mob at the

Sandbar. I guess I can always sleep tomorrow.

Support Local Journalism