The past does have its advantages: It is, for instance, a lot more predictable than the present. It's also an endless source of nostalgia, often for a time and place that never really existed.
Last Saturday at Blues Under the Bridge, the past was as present as the trains that rumbled by throughout the day-long festival. Opening with covers of James Brown's "Cold Sweat" and Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign," headliner Sugaray Rayford proved impressively adept at playing the nostalgia card. A Texas bluesman with a powerful voice and a skillful band to match, he served up crowd-pleasing blues and R&B with larger-than-life showmanship.
Nothing wrong with that, really, but there's also something to be said for stepping outside of genre restrictions, as last year's headliners, the Slide Brothers, did with their effects-laden slide guitars, rich harmonies and unpredictable arrangements.
It was hard not to have the same thoughts later that evening while watching Supersuckers at the Black Sheep, where the ironically self-proclaimed "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World" and its fans reveled in a 25-year legacy that sometimes evoked the lesser works of Motörhead and Urge Overkill.
It's no surprise that a band in love with its own past is destined to repeat it. But it's also worth remembering that getting trapped in nostalgia — whether for Chicago blues, the British invasion or Seattle grunge — closes us off from new music that can be just as satisfying.
Turning to the week ahead, you'll find the percussion-heavy Kithkin, who promise "profuse sweating due to involuntary spasmodic dancing and synchronized aerial maneuvers," at Ivywild this Wednesday. All good things, to be sure, but those who lean more toward the political rock and hip-hop end of the spectrum will find more to love at Rawkus, where Denver's Flobots will play earnest signature songs like "Rise" and "Handlebars," with proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Society.
Speaking of benefits, an especially important one will take place this Saturday to raise funds for Paul Jansen, a much-loved area musician and instructor who's undergoing treatments for Meniere's disease, an inner ear condition that causes vertigo, tinnitus and other symptoms that make daily life extremely difficult. The event takes place at Escape Velocity Comics at 19 E. Bijou St., with performances by Miette Hope, Silver Iris, Bad Night for a Hero, and Celestial Mechanics. Find more information at redheadedzombieshow.com.
Meanwhile, fans of rooftop concerts can drop by Ragged Print Company (1609 S. Cascade Ave.) on Thursday, when K Records act Thanksgiving will share shingles, weather permitting, with R. Ariel and Briffaut.
Elsewhere this week, New Orleans' insanely infectious Iguanas will headline the Mountain of the Sun Music Festival at Aspen Valley Ranch on Saturday, while Texas country outlaw Ray Wylie Hubbard takes the stage at Stargazers.
And finally, here's good news for Riot Fest fans and Byers haters, who these days are pretty much the same thing.
As noted in a previous column, the Sept. 19-21 festival — which will feature acts like The Cure, Wu-Tang Clan and The Flaming Lips — was evicted by its former host town earlier this month. Last week, promoters announced that the festival is moving 40 miles west to Denver's Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The 75,000-capacity venue is also home to next month's Warped Tour, which has never been held in Byers.
Even though they were condemned for creating an event that would turn Byers into the "wrong kind of town for farmers and families," Riot Fest organizers are turning the other cheek.
Yes, there may be a hint of irony in their festival grounds map, which depicts a Byers General Store Stage and a Byers American Feed & and Supply Stage, as well as apple-dunking and pie-eating contests. And no, promoter "Riot Mike" does not sound all that wistful when he rails against the town's "elementary ideological forces and manipulation veiled in contradictory legal jargon."
"Simply, we were duped," he asserts in a lengthy statement. "Certain groups, residents and so forth did not want YOU or US in their town, and there is something morally dishonest and unforgivable with their actions."
Actually, Byers has come out of all this pretty well.
The town's music fans will receive complimentary tickets and shuttle service, while sympathetic Byers businesses will be given free vending space. Promoters will also award a scholarship to a graduating Byers senior pursuing studies in music, arts, business or marketing. They're promising $5,000, and looking to raise an additional $15,000.
Strangely enough, the scholarship initiative came just one day after Byers was awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a government agency once vilified for funding an artistic portrayal of a crucifix submerged in urine.
As far as any of us know, the NEA has since cleaned up its act, so folks in Byers should have nothing to worry about. But for how long?