Merrymaking this time of year often involves music in the mountains. The region is rife with outdoor festivals and performances in parks. The City of Ouray is no different, as organizers recently announced the 2018 Mountain Air Music Series lineup. The free Thursday concerts, which run from 6-9 p.m. at Fellin Park, will start June 7 with Omaha’s The Kris Lager Band and Peach Street Revival, of Grand Junction.
Concert series chair Dave Turner explained the nonprofit that organizes the series — Mountain Air Music, Inc. — takes suggestions and tips from anywhere and anyone in compiling a pool of about 25 bands. Then, it’s “just listening to them” and reaching out to band reps to see if a mini-mountain tour is possible. Turner explained bands often need to book stops in Denver and Utah to make the Ouray trip feasible, and profitable.
“The biggest thing is to be diverse and bring in music that people can dance to … and have a good time,” he said.
The summer slate includes national acts in Maine’s The Ghost of Paul Revere (June 14), LA’s Magic Giant (June 21) and Tennessee’s The Black Lillies (June 28). Colorado bands Avenhart, Bonfire Dub and You Knew Me When will provide support (the openers also will play late-night sets at O’Brien’s Pub & Grill from 9:30-11 p.m. after their respective park shows).
Griffin Sherry, guitarist and singer for The Ghost of Paul Revere, explained the West — particularly the Centennial State — has become one of the band’s favorite stomping grounds.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of standing in a valley, playing music, surrounded by giants (that’s poetic prose for mountains). Having grown up on the East Coast, the first time you see the Rockies is fairly eye-opening,” he said. “Even still, somehow your voices and instruments carry further and seem louder. Colorado has become a favorite spot to play because it’s so damn beautiful.”
The Boston Globe called the music of the denim-clad trio from Portland, Maine, “foot-stompin’ holler-folk,” the sounds of “which festivals are made.” Sounds like a good time, huh?
Max Davis, the band’s banjo picker, said the Rockies have a “sublime impact” on music makers.
“They exemplify monstrous beauty that is awe inspiring, yet terrifying,” he said. “It’s quite an honor to be able to create music in that physical and emotional space.”
Speaking of emotional impact, Turner has a bit of history with The Black Lillies. It was during a Lillies concert in Paonia about seven years ago that he came up with the Mountain Air idea.
“I was watching The Black Lillies with my (now) wife for a first date, sitting next to an oak tree, wondering, ‘How do we do this?’” he recalled.
The band also played his wedding. Plus, the June 28 performance this year is the couple’s three-year anniversary, so Turner is understandably stoked.
“I think you know the band I’m wanting to see,” he said.
He added Magic Giant is another one not to miss.
The trio was featured in Rolling Stone magazine’s “10 New Artists You Need to Know: June 2017” piece, which included the musical description: “A boot-stomping, banjo-toting collective delivering boho-chic pop hooks somewhere between the Avett Brothers and the Chemical Brothers.”
“They’re playing all over the country,” Turner said.
He said the music series welcomes over 2,000 people on any given night. The “main goal” of the performances is to eventually secure a permanent, multi-functional stage in the park. Right now, bands play on a 20-by-30-foot “transformer” stage, which is hauled in and set up specifically for the series.
“Whether it be five or 10 years from now, that’s the goal,” he said. The stage is in the park’s master plan, he added.
While the event is free — Turner said each concert costs about $15,000 to put on — alcohol and food sales will benefit local nonprofits, including the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department. Ouray girls basketball team, Ouray Library, Ouray Elks, Ouray school group, Ouray County Soccer Club, Ouray Chamber of Commerce and KVNF Community Radio.
Turner said the economic impact of the series is about $225,000. He also thanked a long list of sponsors for making the music possible. For more information, visit Ouray Mountain Air Music’s Facebook page, Ouray Music Series.