While the Blues Under the Bridge Festival is still the must-see attraction, Colorado Springs' annual roots-music celebration won't be entirely below the bridge this year.
Between now and Saturday's main event, you can catch a string of free nightly "pre-parties," beginning at Jack Quinn's tonight with local band BJ Estares & Route 61, whose most recent album includes covers of Willy Dixon and Robert Johnson songs. On Thursday, the venue will play host to the Delta Sonics — named Westword's "Best Blues Band in Denver" in 2011 and again in 2012 — before bringing it back home Friday night with Austin Young & No Difference.
Meanwhile, this year's Blues Under the Bridge closing act, Watermelon Slim, will be playing a free warm-up gig at the Mining Exchange on Friday. It'll be a solo set, so you'll also want to go to Saturday's festival for the full-on experience with his band, the Workers. Friday's event goes from 5 to 8, with Big Jim Adam sharing the bill.
In case you're not familiar, Watermelon Slim — aka Bill Homans — is a lap-steel-and-harmonica-wielding bluesman with nearly a dozen albums under his belt and at least as many prestigious blues awards and nominations to go with them. He's led one of those lives that people like to call "colorful": Vietnam vet, industrial-waste trucker and, most recently, full-time touring bluesman. He also has a bachelor's degree in journalism, but then we all make mistakes.
With all of the above comes a gift for storytelling of the wry-bordering-on-hilarious variety, which you'll no doubt hear a lot of during his set. But as a little preview, here's an excerpt from one of his droller blog posts that falls somewhere between Will Rogers' cowboy monologues and Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal":
"Last year," he writes, "I was impressed with a story I saw on CNN, an advertisement for well pumps powered by children's school-playground merry-go-rounds. What a simple, multi-purpose boon to mankind.
"These simple devices represent a solution not only for the procurement of potable water, they are the way to put unemployed able-bodied individuals to productive work. Eight hours a day (for real jocks), or at least six hours a day — at minimum wage, this is the very essence of unskilled labor. Spinning around on large playground merry-go-rounds can procure a helluva lot of water for people who would otherwise be drinking liquid that might be anything up to and including raw untreated sewage."
Note that the musician wrote this in early 2011, a full six months before then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich outlined his proposal for repealing child labor laws so that school kids could be used in place of janitors. This is the kind of visionary thinking that America needs.
While Slim closes out Saturday's festival, Blues Under the Bridge promoter Amy Whitesell points out that this year's level of talent means none of the featured artists can technically be called headliners. You can, for instance, turn to p. 38 to read our Slide Brothers interview, and go to bluesunderthebridge.com for other highlights. As for the schedule, gates open at 1 and the music runs till round about midnight, kicking off with Justus League at 2, DB Rielly at 3:20, Slide Brothers at 4:55, Blues Cararvan at 6:45, John Hammond at 8:35, and Watermelon Slim at 10:25.
Moving into the world of live 'n local, there was a big turnout for last Saturday's Inelements CD release show at the Black Sheep, and the alt-metal favorites did not disappoint. In addition to swinging from rafters and balancing on monitors, they underscored just how solid the songs on The Warning are, from the anthemic title track to the exceedingly soulful "The River." The band also unveiled a new, unrecorded song called "Get Your Coat." You can read more about Inelements in last week's Indy cover story here.
As for the coming week, look for Night Beds, a Nashville band that sounds like Father John Misty probably would if his vocals were pitched more in the Thom Yorke range. They play the Loft on Thursday night before taking off for a couple dozen European dates.
Also on Thursday, Arch Hooks will be debuting his new Time for the Wingman: A Music Film, at Manitou's CK Comics and Collectibles. While the title may lead you to think our local soulman/keyboardist extraordinaire has become fascinated with singles-bar sidekicks, it's actually a manifestation of his obsession with a certain caped crusader. (If the visual and lyrical imagery doesn't give it away, the song "I'm Fuckin' Batman" is a pretty good clue.) It's all fairly epic — think Bat Out of Hell without Meatloaf — and you can find details at archhooks.com.
Meanwhile, indie-rock 'n' roll fans would be bat-shit crazy (OK, I'll stop) to miss two truly great, loud, smart bands — Albuquerque's Beard and Austin's Blind Pets — when they hit the Triple Nickel on Saturday, with the Springs' Circles & Squares rounding out the bill.
Finally, this Friday is your last chance to vote in this year's Indy Music Awards. You'll find the ballot on p. 37 as well as at csindy.com. Democracy is your friend.