Feeling the Love: Yamn has spent years building up a following of mountain-town faithful. Photo: Brennan Schloo
Colorado’s high-altitude juke joints have long hosted legendary musical parties that linger through the ages. It’s an eclectic bunch up in the hills, drawn from all corners of the world. And everyone brings a little flavor of that somewhere else, adding to the spice of a population that rarely needs a reason to rally for a party. The bands thrive off the energy of the always-amped mountain locals and those hairy, outdoor-loving funhogs tap into their own electricity off the energy of the band on stage.
That vibe makes resort towns fertile ground for bands eager to make a name. Several now-mainstream bands—think Phish, Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident, Big Head Todd—first flourished by relentlessly touring beery high country venues in Telluride, Crested Butte, Aspen, Vail, Steamboat and Winter Park. Today, a new era of stringy jammers is thriving in the hills, feeding not just the insatiable musical appetite of mountain denizens, but their own art with the bristling energy of a mountain momma’s boogie.
Fort Collins quartet Head For The Hills can thread just about any music genre into their bluegrass jams, a vibrant sound honed over a few hundred Colorado shows since first forming in 2004. After the 2010 release of their self-titled second album, H4TH has been touring nationally and harvesting rave reviews. Still, said guitarist Adam Klinghorn, “nothing beats playing in Colorado.”
“Maybe it’s people’s open-mindedness to new music that makes us love it so much, or the fact that it’s our home. Either way, people in Colorado really embrace and generally expect acoustic bands like ourselves to continue taking the music to new places,” he said. “People in Colorado love the great outdoors and bluegrass-acoustic music really reflects some of those values.”
Electronica trance-fusion jammers Yamn have logged some 100,000 miles on their tired bus—which they lived in for a couple years—since forming in Breckenridge in 2007. Most of those miles were in Colorado’s high country, where the band has played about 200 shows at legendary spots like the Eldo in Crested Butte, Ullr’s in Winter Park and Steamboat’s Old Town Pub.
“You have to gain the love of the locals to make it in these towns. It has taken us years of playing in these towns to draw the crowds that we get nowadays,” said Yamn bassist and singer David “Dewey” Duart. “And Colorado Mountain peeps are rowdy. The fans in Colorado are loyal, but at the same time they are tough. If you put on a bad show, they will let you know. People in Colorado love music of all kinds, metal to bluegrass, funk to electronic. It’s a beautiful thing and therefore it keeps the energy levels high. Plus, the weed is really good out here, and the thinner air gets people a little bit drunk a little quicker!”