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Manitou's changing of the guard

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One step forward, two steps back. Last Tuesday, just as a new venue was celebrating its opening in Manitou Springs, two of the local music scene's most enduring institutions were shuttering their doors.

On Dec. 31, the Dulcimer Shop ended its 43-year run on the 700 block of Manitou Avenue. Like many of its neighbors, the retail outlet had suffered considerable damage during last August's floods, which destroyed a third of the wood that was used to make instruments on-site. While the brick-and-mortar operation is gone, its hand-made instruments will soon be offered through an online shop expected to launch later this month.

New Year's Eve was also the day that Kinfolks Mountain Shop, located two blocks away from the Dulcimer Shop, bid farewell to both Manitou and 2013.

Although best known to tourists as an outdoor gear shop, Kinfolks has also served as a venue for local music. When I first moved to Colorado Springs five years ago, it was there that I caught early performances by Grant Sabin, Mike Clark's band the Jack Trades, and the Haunted Windchimes, who back then were still just a trio.

"I had never played such an intimate setting for such nice folks," says the Haunted Windchimes' Inaiah Lujan of the venue, which would have celebrated its 10th anniversary this coming June. "There was a sense that the scene was really starting to come together."

Clark, who would subsequently join the Windchimes as well, offers up similar sentiments.

"I first saw John-Alex Mason there every Sunday for a whole winter," says Clark of the late Colorado Springs bluesman who inspired him to take up music himself.

"I played my first acoustic show there back when Josh Vonloh ran the booking. It was where I became great friends with Inaiah, Joe [Johnson], Jason [Miller], Conor [Bourgal] and Grant. Those first few years there were a major fire-starter for all of our careers."

As for that one step forward, Manitou's newest music venue was baptized on New Year's Eve, as the Jake Loggins Band and Stray Suns took the stage on the site of the former Castaways, which has now been made over into "The Lower Deck featuring the Red Room."

The kitsch array of tikis, flamingos and palm trees — which once greeted visitors in the building's pirate-themed restaurant days — has been shipped out to sea in favor of an upscale display of local art and consignment furniture. Inside the bar area is The Lower Deck, a Detroit Red Wings-themed hockey bar and dance floor, as well as the adjacent 350-capacity Red Room.

The venue is currently soliciting video submissions from interested local bands and solo performers. Details can be found at thelowerdecksredroom.com.

Meanwhile, if you missed Loggins on New Year's Eve, he'll be playing Saturday at one of Manitou's surviving live music venues, the Townhouse. The blues-rocker , who'll be representing the Springs at Memphis' International Blues Challenge later this month, also plays Benny's this Friday.

And finally, just to follow up on last week's column, the ReMINDers did indeed play Acacia Park last Saturday, despite the overnight storm that continued throughout the day. In true "show must go on" fashion, emcee Aja Black made her way through the snow to the heated performance tent with the aid of a crutch due to a knee injury.

Of course, the local hip-hop duo's appearance at the show in the snow wasn't a surprise, given the fact that Black also limped out onstage for the ReMINDers' New Year's Eve set at Boulder's Fox Theatre.

As fellow emcee Antoine "Samir" Zamundu put it Saturday morning, "A little snow never hurt anyone."

Send news, photos and music to reverb@csindy.com; follow our updates at tiny.cc/indyreverb.

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