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The Travelin' McCourys

Mile High Music: November Edition

Ever feel overwhelmed with all the live music options in Denver? We're here to help. This month: tunes we're thankful for.

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Thanksgiving tends to dominate November, from the travel plans, to the autumnal décor, to dreams of turkey. With all these festivities, it’s easy to forget the holiday is actually about giving thanks. I’m especially thankful for all the distractions we’re lucky to have in Colorado—from the mountains, to the local food, to all the bands that pay us a visit. November is no exception. This will be my first Thanksgiving spent a mile high, and there’s a lot of upcoming shows to be grateful for.

The Travelin’ McCourys
Thankful for: Bluegrass

In the bluegrass world, the McCoury family is royalty. Patriarch Del McCoury is one of the most recognizable artists in the scene, and his kids—mandolinist Ronnie and banjoist Rob—are prodigies in their own right. Sometimes the clan performs together, and sometimes the kids—joined by fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartam—do their own thing as the Travelin’ McCourys. This months the band will play Boulder’s Fox Theatre and Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver on November 5 and 6, respectively. Be prepared for the boys to live up to the family name, with true bluegrass vocals, lightening-fast pickin’, and expert showmanship, but also be prepared for a fair amount of experimentation and flair. After all, no one wants to be exactly like their parents.

The Werks and Twiddle
Thankful for: New, unusual collaborations

Both the Werks and Twiddle have been around for a decade, but both are just now coming into their fame, and the bands’ recent tour, dubbed the Twerk Tour, is certainly new. Both groups transcend genres, but fall somewhere in the realm of rock-jam-electronic. It’s music that would be pretty hard to twerk to, although it’s not out of the question; both bands have embraced what we’ll call the super genre, which really means no one genre at all. Twiddle, a quartet from Vermont, plays bluegrass and reggae alike, and has been a favorite among Phish fans for years (this past July the quartet opened for the String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks). The Werks, a soulful quartet from Ohio, can get funky, and has its own festival, The Werk Out. Expect collaboration among the artists when the Twerk Tour hits the Boulder Theater on November 7.

Sam Bush
Thankful for: Modest legends

In the bluegrass world Sam Bush is a luminary, in part because he’s the face of Telluride Bluegrass. Bush is also a founding member of Newgrass Revival, which took a rigid music scene and turned it on it’s head, thanks to the band’s long, hippie hair and knack for fast, genre-flouting tunes. The fact that Bush is playing the 1-Up—as opposed to say, the Pepsi Center—makes me incredibly thankful.

(Read more: The Sam Bush story comes to Colorado)

Trey Anastasio Band, the Motet
Thankful for: Funk

Everyone loves a little funk. After leaving Brooklyn—where true New Orleans bands rotate through the Brooklyn Bowl weekly—for Denver, I wasn’t sure how well I’d fare on the funk front. It’s less frequent, but the Front Range gets its fair share. The Trey Anastasio Band, led by the Phish frontman, doesn’t offer pure funk—that African American mix of of soul-jazz-R&B. Rather, TAB is an amalgamation of genres, although its sound is danceable and contains a horns section. If you can score tickets to the band’s sold-out run November 13–14 at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, band member Jennifer Hartswick’s voice alone will be worth the effort. TAB’s latest album, Paper Wheels, was released October 30 and channels its fair share of ’70s pop. You can listen here.

For a true funk experience, head to the Motet’s Hometown Hustle at the Ogden Theatre the same nights. Friday will feature special guests The Main Squeeze, an infectious quintet out of Chicago (vocalist Corey Frye is a standout). The second set of Saturday night’s show is being billed as the Spirit of ’77. The Colorado band will further funkafy tunes from 1977—dress appropriately.


(Photo credit: Matt Tillett)

Dead and Company
Thankful for: The Grateful Dead

Unless you we’re living off the grid, you probably caught wind of Fare Thee Well, a three-day event meant to commemorate 50 years of The Grateful Dead’s music, as well as the last time the remaing members of band would ever play together (it also featured Trey Anastasio playing Jerry Garcia licks). The event got everyone stoked on what a long, strange trip its been, including John Mayer (guitar, vocals). Dead and Company features him, along with original Dead members Bob Weir (guitar, vocals) and Mickey Hart (percussion), bassist Oteil Burbridge, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, who also played the Fare Thee Well shows. The act will likely sound stellar, considering everyone’s talents, and will most definitely feature Dead tunes. The sextet will play 21 North American shows this year, including two at Broomfield’s First Bank Center on November 24–25; tickets will cost you a cool Franklin.

Leftover Salmon
Thankful for: 25 years of polyethnic Cajun slamgrass

This year marks 25 years as a band for Leftover Salmon, a Colorado institution that’s been merging jam music with bluegrass since its inception (the band even created its own genre: polyethnic Cajun slamgrass). The group has gone through some changes over the years—original banjoist Mark Vann passed away in 2002 and there have been a slew of different drummers—but today’s lineup is top-notch, featuring Little Feat’s Bill Payne on keys, the showmanship of Vince Herman, and the multi-instrumental stylings of Drew Emmitt.

To be fair though, everyone in the band is talented. The sextet will release the live album 25 this month, as part of a special package with Breckenridge Brewery’s limited edition Silver Salmon India Pale Ale (the Colorado brewery is also celebrating a quarter century). The album will be available on digital outlets starting November 27, and the band will play two shows at the Boulder Theater beginning that night. Coincidence? We think not.

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