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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
It’s hard to believe there’s just one more week until the sixth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival takes place June 7-9 on Reservoir Hill.
Festival-goers will get to see and hear more than 20 live performances from 16 different bands on the main stage and late night stage over the course of the three-day event.
This year’s phenomenal lineup represents a variety of musical styles and genres — from Austin Indie Rock to Canadian-Celtic. The lineup includes The Iguanas, Della Mae, The Defibulators, The Black Lillies, The Warren Hood Band, Matt Flinner Trio, Taarka, Front Country, The Haunted Windchimes, Paper Bird, Finnders and Youngberg, Corn Yeti, The Expedition Quintet, The New Shoots Trio and this week’s featured headliner bands, The Band of Heathens and The Duhks. You can find links to all of the festival artists on the festival website, www.folkwest.com.
Since emerging as a favorite new live band out of Austin, Texas, in the late 2000s, the Band of Heathens has toured relentlessly, building a devoted following and landing on some of the finest stages in music. Over three studio albums and hundreds of shows each year, they’ve evolved as a group and broadened their sound.
Their most recent studio album “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son” spiked the already potent punch with a dash of jammy psychedelia. And their four-disc, two-volume, live DVD release called “Double Down — Live in Denver (Vol. 1 & 2)” features the band’s live variations and extensions of original material mostly from their last two studio albums. The rich and righteous vocal harmonies and legendary live shows that set TBoH apart from the beginning have just gotten better. With a growing resume of key shows and broadcasts to their credit, (Bonnaroo, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits TV Show and ACL Festival among them), the Band of Heathens has never enjoyed so much renown or optimism.
The band got its start in late 2005 when a group of likeminded songwriters established residency gigs on the same night of the week at Momo’s, a club on Austin’s famous Sixth Street. Friendship, sit-ins and harmony jags gelled into something quite rare: a band with multiple front-men, each with enough humility and passion to invest in the larger project. The sum transcended the parts, and very quickly, word spread about TBoH’s special chemistry. The strong voices up front all played a role, whether as leaders or locked together in harmony.
The show’s-the-thing focus led them down a somewhat unorthodox path: launching their recorded career with two live discs, “Live from Momo’s” and “Live at Antone’s,” released in 2006 and 2007 respectively. The Heathens took their time getting their first studio album out, but when that eponymous debut was released in 2008, they proved they could write and record a coherent statement that measured up to their show. They followed relatively quickly with “One Foot InThe Ether” toward the end of 2009. Both shot to the top of the Americana chart and remained there for months, a longevity rare in any format of music.
“Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son,” released in 2011, stretches further, without breaking faith with the feel and integrity that got the Band of Heathens this far. The positive reaction from fans and critics vindicated the group’s hopes that the album would show growth. Blurt magazine said that, “in a crowded roots rock field, (their) diversity sets them apart.” And, “it would have been easy for (them) to play it safe on ‘Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son,’” said Pittsburgh’s Daily News. “But they decided to tweak their formula a bit and the results are truly memorable.” And American Songwriter ruled it, “an album that begs to be listened to from start to finish.”
The Band of Heathens will close the main stage at the festival on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m..
“Canada’s premier neo-tradsters romp from world-beat to blues, urban-pop to old-timey, with wild-eyed invention, haunting traditionalism, and spine-rattling groove. Who says the Frozen North can’t sizzle, eh?” proclaimed The Boston Globe about Grammy-nominated and JUNO Award-winning Canadian band, The Duhks.
Seeing The Duhks live is nothing short of a spiritual experience. A syncopated bluesy banjo number seamlessly follows a Brazilian samba; an old-time jaunt nestles comfortably next to a gospel performance. One of the most musically adventurous bands to come from the roots scene in the past decade, The Duhks’ recent return to the stage is definitely a cause for celebration.
The most vital acoustic music being made today acknowledges its predecessors and lives in the here and now. The Duhks, a band of five skilled, high-energy, tattooed thirtysomethings from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been riveting audiences and winning staunch fans around the world with just that kind of music. We are excited and honored to welcome them back to the Pagosa stage to close this year’s Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival on the main stage on Sunday, June 9, at 6 p.m.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part with funding from Colorado Creative Industries.
FolkWest’s other big event, the Four Corners Folk Festival, takes place Aug. 30-Sept. 1. This year’s exciting lineup includes headliners John Hiatt and the Combo and Natalie MacMaster along with The Wood Brothers, Darrell Scott Band, Jimmy LaFave, John Fullbright, Elephant Revival, the Lone Bellow, Sarah Siskind and Travis Book, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Baskery, New Country Rehab, Aoife O’Donovan Band, Slaid Cleaves, The Giving Tree Band and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams. Tickets are currently on sale on the FolkWest website and are selling quickly.
For more information on either festival, or to purchase tickets, visit www.folkwest.com or call 31-5582. You can also find both festivals on Facebook, which is a great way to keep up to date on the latest announcements.