If I were in a progressive bluegrass band right now, I would map out my winter tour to hit places the likes of Jackson Hole, Aspen and of course Telluride. I would also enlist a top-tier Colorado microbrewery to sponsor the shows, with proceeds from ticket sales going to a charitable cause that matters.
The Infamous Stringdusters’ upcoming Ski Tour, running through the month of February, makes a point of locking in multi-night runs in the aforementioned prime locations, with Longmont-based craft beer experts Oskar Blues promoting the tour shenanigans, and Colorado flood relief program seeing support, via the brewery’s Can’d Aid Foundation.
Five guys shredding by day and igniting the foot-stomping goodness by night, fueled by non-stop great beer. How could it get any better? My guess is the Telluride crowd aims to outdo all the rest.
“When you’re in the acoustic world, especially the progressive bluegrass part of it that we fall into,” said banjo player Chris Pandolfi. “Telluride is one of those ubiquitous things from the very beginning. It’s the live albums recorded there, and the fan connections made there…. So when the call finally comes, and get you an invite to go to Telluride, it’s one of those Carnegie Hall-type moments for a string band.”
The High Country Recordings quintet have it figured out, after eight years of pushing their critically acclaimed, award-winning bluegrass tunes across the country. Loyal fans are behind the group’s comfort level high for holing up in premier mountain towns for multiple nights, mixing business with pleasure on the slopes and on the stage.
Banjoist Chris Pandolfi explains that the idea originated organically during a show in Montana. The band said if someone could hook them up with ski passes, they’d stay to play an extra night. The next day they were lapping with fans – and the ski area even gave them all the last gondola ride up-mountain. Rather than just a memorable one-off day, they decided to take the idea and run with it. Much like their music, an improvised chance encounter has grown into a loosely formatted journey, with only positive endings.
The master musicians who make up the Stringdusters have set themselves apart, with an ethos hellbent on progressing the genre. Maybe that’s what every band says about their creative outpouring, but songwriting is as important as improvisational picking for these guys. Using jam vehicles from studio works like Silver Sky allow handcrafted tunes to push into energetic depths that are tastefully experimental. The guys are young enough to take chances onstage still, but have honed their abilities to allow many more successes than failures in the live setting.
Pandolfi speaks for the Duster gang about the upcoming shows, saying of Telluride, “There is a unique appeal about coming to perform there in the winter. It’s a magical place in general, of course, truly unlike all of the other spots we’ve been to, and the skiers in our group feel like that translates just as much in this season, as well. This is our fifth year of routing our ski tour through there, and it directly plays into our bigger live performance philosophy of cool people congregating in cool places.”
Infamous Stringdusters, Thurs., Feb. 20-Fri., Feb. 21, Sheridan Opera House, 8:30 p.m., $25.