Back in 1979, the idea of a musical gathering on the night before Thanksgiving served several purposes.
It allowed members of different local bands the chance for an uninhibited jam session playing songs — old hits and original material — from the 1960s and '70s, ranging from the Byrds and Beatles to John Prine and Pure Prairie League. It gave the Hungry Farmer, at the time a thriving restaurant and busy live-music venue on Garden of the Gods Road, the chance to pull a crowd on an otherwise quiet night.
And, of course, it provided the opportunity to start the holiday weekend by partying hard, celebrating a friend's birthday.
More than three decades later, the event known as Barky Lew's Birthday Bash has evolved considerably. It's an annual reunion for anyone with ties to the local scene from those days, and of course to any paying customers (it's more like a cult following now), with different combinations sharing the stage until midnight or beyond.
After over-filling the house for several years at McCabe's Tavern downtown, Sean Anglum and friends are trying a bigger stage and room this time at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center.
"Some of us have talked about it," says Anglum, one of the event's driving forces and former member of such groups as the Phantom Hooters and Buffalo Dreams. "We're thinking, 'Gee, this is kinda like the old Hollywood Palace, except we don't have women like Raquel Welch parading around with placards between the acts."
This year, the doors open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7:30 and it'll continue "as long as we want," Anglum says.
"But we hate having too much structure," he adds. "We remember a lot of songs, but we've never had a set list."
The only ritual is the opening song: "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," written by Bob Dylan and popularized by the Byrds, then covered by countless others. From there, it's wide open.
The main nucleus, as usual, will include different mixtures of Lewis Mock (guitar) and Joe Bevans (bass), now in The Broadmoor Tavern's house band; Rob Wheeler (guitar) and Lee Norgaard (banjo) from Fall River Road (former Farmer regulars); and others including Tom Gregor (drums), Steve Foster (bass), Steve Cormey (guitar) and Anglum (guitar). Norgaard will have his current group, Old Friends and Memories, and Anglum has recruited the Mitguards and Molly Boyles.
Wheeler, now a lawyer in the Iowa attorney general's office, drives in from Des Moines each year. The rest live here or elsewhere in Colorado.
Mock always brings some surprises from his broad repertoire, which Anglum describes as "a song encyclopedia." Mock has been known to cut loose with the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" or "Day Tripper," and "Sloop John B" by the Beach Boys. Last year he unleashed the Monkees' "I'm a Believer."
"The crowd went crazy on that one," Anglum says of the Neil Diamond-penned song, "and Lewis' smile literally went from ear to ear."
The "bash" has never had a cover charge, Anglum says, but this time each person is asked to bring at least two nonperishable food items for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, "and if anyone forgets, we'll ask them to just put a few bucks in the kitty."
Nobody knows how "Hungry Farmer Revisited" will work in a larger venue with a big stage, along with house lights and sound. But, as Anglum puts it, "We're about to find out."