So, I don’t smoke pot. I don’t begrudge people that do it, and I’d say it’s nuts that it’s illegal it’s just something I’ve never been into. So when I bought tickets for a concert on 4/20it didn’t even dawn on me that this was the ultimate hippie ‘holiday.’ I’m really not even sure that it changed the show that much, there might have been bit more pot smell in the air but really, this is Colorado people smoke pot at every show that’s just how it is. It’s possible that the way the show played out was affected by the fact that it was national pot smoking day but I’ve never seen Head For The Hills before so it might be perfectly normal for them to do two sets that end up lasting well past midnight. There is an outside chance that the 4/20ishness also affected the charming d-bag next to me who spent a large part of the night loudly questioning my presence at the show because apparently I wasn’t enjoying the music in a way that he would have preferred. I think that was more due to PBR that pot though because I thought pot was supposed to make you mellow. Despite that one annoyance, an absurd amount of sleepiness on my part, and the terrible sound mix at the Bluebird rearing it’s ugly head again the show was a lot of fun. So maybe I should get to talking about it.
Bill Nershi is a bit of a Colorado music legend as a founding member of The String Cheese Incident which is a jam band based out of Boulder. I didn’t know any of that going into this show, in fact I didn’t know any of that until a few minutes ago when I tried to find a webpage for these two to link to. Now that I know it, it kind of explains a lot. Because he jammed, and he jammed, and then he jammed some more. He was like a one man jam band. It should be said here that I don’t really consider this a good thing. Jam bands have never really been my thing, perhaps due to the aforementioned lack of pot smoking. Don’t get me wrong, my personal bias is in no way an indictment of the man or the music he created. He’s an insanely talented guitarist and a good singer. The folk songs he played were really good. Folk music is very much my heart and my home, it’s what I was raised on and I revel in it when it’s available. However in between each of these songs he’d go on a five to ten minute musical journey on his guitar and he’d just lose me. I’m very much a lyrical music listener and while I can appreciate a bit of jamming having it in excess is bound to pull me out of the show. I know that there is a lot of talent required to jam, I know a lot of people find it beautiful, but all I can think is ‘For the love of god play the next song.’ His jamming also had the side effect of making his wife look kind of awkward standing next to him while he played. They ended up playing one of the longest opening sets I’ve seen in a while and while there was some great stuff in there the jamming just took me out of it. Again, not my thing, I know there were people there that loved every minute of it and I know some people personally who would have loved every minute of it. So just give them a listen and it this is your thing go check them out if you get a chance.
I had never heard Head for the Hills before the show, with the exception of the one youtube clip that The Bluebird had up on their website. I knew that they were bluegrass though and the idea of seeing some locally cultivated Colorado bluegrass intrigued me. They did not disappoint. Now it should be said that they were a little jammy too but they didn’t take it to extremes and as bluegrass is prone to instrumentals it’s entirely possible they were just playing instrumental pieces. What they were playing certainly felt a little more tightly composed than people who are just playing off of each other and performing instrumental gymnastics. In any case they really brought it and I loved every minute of it, some of their stuff strayed from the bluegrass core, and while it was all good I felt that their straight bluegrass stuff was the best..
Sadly though, once again the sound mix at the Bluebird was terrible. While the instruments were clear and wonderful the vocals were muddy and all but unintelligible. It was really disappointing because I feel like it took a lot from the show. If I had been familiar with their work maybe I wouldn’t have noticed it because I would have known the words already but I wasn’t familiar with their work and the sound left me straining to try to figure out what was being said. It’s really unfortunate that this audio problem seems to be enduring at the Bluebird. At one point it was probably my favorite small venue in Denver but now every show I see there leaves me wanting. really, as much as I liked these guys I think I would have liked them even more if I’d been able to hear what they were singing.
Probably the highlight of the night was when they did a cover of Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden. This is partially because I am already familiar with this song so I could parse out some of the words and partially because, well, a bluegrass cover of an Iron Maiden song is bound to be incredible. Also I had kind of wondered if they’d play it since their name instantly makes me think of that song. I hope I get another chance to see these guys somewhere that isn’t The Bluebird, what I heard was great but I know it could have been better if the audio hadn’t been so poorly mixed. It looks like these guys make it out of Denver a fair bit so if they come to your neck of the woods give them a look, I think you’ll like what you see.