Denver-based bluegrass band Oakhurst plans to ‘shred’ in Vail tonight |

Denver-based bluegrass band Oakhurst plans to ‘shred’ in Vail tonight

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Mark Manger

A little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll ” that might be the best way to describe the aggressive sound of Oakhurst, a bluegrass quintet from Denver with an urban edge. Their style is part homage to bluegrass legends like Earl Scruggs and part reinvention of the genre using a decidedly more up-beat, party-in-the-mountains approach to playing.

The self-described “Rocky Mountain guerilla grass” band will play tonight at the Sandbar in West Vail. We spoke with Zach Daniels, the banjo player for the band, about what makes Oakhurst stand out and about stretching the boundaries of the bluegrass music.

Zach Daniels: That’s a pretty interesting story. I was playing down on the 16th Street mall (in Denver) for beer money … I happened to be playing outside of the Appaloosa Bar and Grill where Johnny (James Qualley) and A.P. (Hill)’s band, Oakhurst, was playing. On one of their set breaks the manager had told them that there was a kid outside playing banjo and to go check him out and they came out and asked me if I knew how to play ‘Rocky Top.’ I said ‘yeah’ ’cause it was the only song I knew how to play … and they asked me to come in and play and I got the permanent gig.

ZD: Not really. I was just sort of goofing around with the banjo and I never really did take it that seriously, then it started getting more and more serious … I never did really, back when they asked me to come sit in, thought that it would go this far.

ZD: My number one influence, my favorite all time band, is Earth Wind and Fire.

ZD: Everybody adds their own little flavor but I think that A.P., he’s the lead singer, he definitely does most of the song writing … and kind of comes up with these exoskeletons and we sort of fill it in. We put the guts into it … We all help out, all help each other. It’s a pretty democratic process.

ZD: That’s kind of what we try to do, maybe more than other bands, is rock harder. I like to describe our music more as rock n’ roll with bluegrass instrumentation … We just really try to take the high-energy approach to it, really get the crowd into it and just hang on.

ZD: We’re not out there to play Earl Scruggs music, we’re not out there to play bluegrass music necessarily, we’re out there playing music that we have fun playing and that’s really our main goal. I think our mission statement is to make sure the crowd has as much fun as we do on stage … We’re kind of showing that it’s possible to play different kinds of music with these kind of genre-stereotyped instruments.

ZD: I would expect to see a lot of Jameson drinking, a lot of guitar shredding and mandolin shredding. I say just a lot of shredding. Shredding in general.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

What: An evening with bluegrass band Oakhurst.

When: Tonight at 10 p.m. with doors opening at 9 p.m.

Where: The Sandbar Sports Grill in West Vail.

Cost: $10.

More information: Call 970-476-4314 or visit

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