Head For The Hills with The Grant Farm featuring Benny "Burle" Galloway and Gipsy Moon, Mishawaka Amphitheatre, Bellvue, CO- 5/17
It’s been ten short years since Head For The Hills first took the stage at Mishawaka. This particular annual concert has evolved from humble beginnings into a springtime celebration and the official opening of the summer season at The Mish. In more recent years it has become known as ‘Pickin’ On The Poudre.’ This year’s lineup made for a hometown throw down and an absolute celebration of Colorado Grass… a bluer strain perhaps? I opted to ride up with a friend as we encountered a strong spring storm as we turned past Ted’s Place and up the Poudre Canyon. The rain subsided by the time we arrived and after grabbing tickets I again found myself smack dab in the happiest place in Northern Colorado.
Gipsy Moon continues to spread the their brand of foot-stomping; jazz-inspired bluegrass up and down the Front Range and well beyond. With sets at Palisade Bluegrass, Northwest String Summit, and Arise Music Festival this summer alone it’s obvious that this band will stop at nothing to spread the ‘Gipsygrass.’ I originally took notice of this band given the fact that Vince Herman’s progeny Silas was playing mandolin. However over the last few years, I have seen this band grow and their focus on the music is evident with every performance. Their opening set at Mishawaka had everything I’ve come to expect from these Nederlanders. The more recent addition of Andrew Conley on cello elevated their sound to a new level as he utilized his bow to great effect. In honor of the precipitation Gipsy Moon performed a beautiful, driving pair of originals “Spring Rain” and “Rain Song.” Their vivacious style of jazz infused string music is infectious plain and simple. As they played on the skies cleared and venue filled with happy music fans.
It was dark before The Grant Farm took the stage. Tyler Grant has dedicated everything to this group as a vehicle for his passion to play and write music. This show follows the release of their newest album Plowin’ Time, which was funded by a Hail Mary push on Kickstarter. Grant’s band has evolved from its roots with Andy Thorn and Keith Moseley and now he leads a group of young guns that rip it up convincingly. Adrian Engfer on bass, Stephen Thurston on keys, and Sean Macaulay on drums back flatpicking master Grant on his electric guitar. Many come to a Grant Farm show with certain expectations based on Tyler’s history with Emmitt-Nershi Band and his ability to destroy an acoustic guitar. This versatile group who can go from reggae to face-melting rock to funk effortlessly shatters those expectations. They treated us to the reggae-grass-tastic title track of Plowin’ Time before honoring Benny “Burle” Galloway. Grant wrote “The Song of The Wayward Son” about Burle, which they played before inviting him out for the remainder of the set. They went into a rough sawn version of JJ Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” which felt spot on.
“This one goes out to all of you, especially… all of you.” –Benny “Burle” Galloway
Galloway is a Colorado legend who has lent his picking and songwriting services to just about everyone of note in this picturesque state. Most famously with Yonder Mountain String Band’s album Old Hands on which he wrote all 13 tracks. He was a welcomed addition to the night’s festivities.
Finally it was time for the main event. Head For The Hills came to their instruments as the bubbly Poudre River raged just behind the stage. The clear sky reassured the crowd and the temperature didn’t drop as it has in previous years. It was the perfect night for an acoustic explosion, and that’s exactly what was on the menu. H4Th played two sets with a 15 minute break. They invited Tyler Grant and company back to round out the first set. The show itself was the perfect blend of new and old from their catalog. Now classic tunes like ”Goin’ down” and “Dependency Co.” dotted both sets. Fans were treated to a new song written by fiddle player Joe Lessard that has yet to receive a title. In fact Matt asked the audience for suggestions, I would call it “Prescribed Addictions,” but that’s me. They also invited keyboardist James Thomas out for the bulk of both sets. He adds another dimension to their sound, giving a fullness and crispness that is truly appealing. Their instrumental tunes induce a dancing frenzy where fans lock in with the band. This set was another amazing experience at the Mishawaka. This place is magical and worth a visit even if a band is not playing. Thankfully on this peaceful night in the Poudre three absurdly talented bands took the stage and gave a sold out crowd something to remember.