It’s safe to say that local rock band Aftergrass never really broke up. Yet since going on an indefinite hiatus about eight years ago, the shows have been few and far between.
They played a celebration of life for their former manager a year and a half ago. Six to eight years before that show, they played a wedding. A couple of shows every decade is a far cry from the schedule they rolled with in the early part of this century, when they could be caught monthly in downtown Durango at The Summit, as regulars at a handful of KDUR Radio Cover Night shows or annually on New Year’s Eve in Silverton.
Another rare Aftergrass performance will happen Saturday. The band will perform at Wines of the San Juan in Blanco, New Mexico, for a benefit show to raise money for Brittny Squires Arnold, who is facing mounting medical bills for forthcoming treatment for multiple sclerosis. The event will take on a festival atmosphere, with camping permitted for the night.
They’re a band that at times has been humorously defined as a jam band, a classification that will result in a defiant yet half-smiled scoff. Better classified as a quirky rock band that can jam, they remain purveyors of 3- to 4-minute pop songs with an ability to drift.
“As time goes on, I care less and less about that classification. I think that one of our strengths was in writing original music and performing that music,” said Aftergrass drummer Eric Kiefer. “Yeah, there’s a guitar solo in the songs, but we have a lot of short, poppy songs. If you listen to our records, even the studio record that none of us are terribly fond of, they’re short, maybe a little psychedelic, trippy, pop songs. I don’t know that we’re even that good of a jam band. You need a keyboard to be a real jam band. We don’t have a keyboard; we have a mandolin instead of a keyboard and that removes us from the contention there.”
The band has always carried a laid-back attitude when it comes to, well, everything. They make good-time music made for people who dig a good time. Preparation for Saturday’s show has included some rehearsal, along with sending notes, lyrics and chord information to each other by email, as well as listening to past shows the band recorded and posted on live show websites. Any nerves that may be present because they haven’t played together in well over a year are, at least for Kiefer, nonexistent.
“It’s not always easy to remember your parts and remember your changes and remember the lyrics and all these things,” Kiefer said. “But Aftergrass has always been such a laid-back group of people. We never beat ourselves up to much about playing the wrong note at the right time, or the right note at the wrong time, we’ve just kind of always rolled with the punches and made having a good time, and the audience having a good time, a priority for us. It’s not going to be tough. It’s like riding a bike.”
The last show Aftergrass played involved making a set list that was ignored, rehearsing 15 songs and then ripping through 20 songs they didn’t rehearse. Aftergrass has an ability to deliver a loose, make it up as you go rock ’n’ roll show, where spontaneity is a major part of the inspiration and presentation. It’s where band members thrive.
“When you have to wing it, you have to be on the same wing with everyone,” Kiefer said.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.