Local writer Fred Wildfang has put together some wonderful books containing historical photos from our area. One such book is part of the Images of America series called Durango.
Its last few pages contain pictures of the Rochester Hotel. Some, dating back to the 1960s, show the hotel in serious disrepair. Flop-house is a fitting term.
When Wildfangs wife Diane and her son Kirk Komick purchased the hotel in 1992 they, in turn, invested hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into restoration.
The result is what exists now, including the beautiful courtyard on the south side of the building. Its a place thats ripe for concerts and theres no sense letting good performance space go to waste.
Waste it wont with a series of happy-hour concerts featuring blues, folk and bluegrass each Wednesday in June.
The shows are being booked and promoted by Beth Lamberson and the Rochester staff members.
After Lamberson brought Travis Book and Sarah Siskind to the courtyard in September, it seemed obvious that early outdoor concerts could be performed in The Secret Garden.
Sarah and Travis summed it up in September. They loved the early show time, the casual vibe, the setting is simply gorgeous and full of fresh air and ambience, Lamberson said. Others agreed as 140 tickets sold for that show.
The hotels become a popular music venue in recent months for good reason. The ticket price is cheap, the shows start and end early, and the artists and attendees are happy.
The series will kick off with Santa Fes Alex Maryol. Maryol began playing blues music in bars when he was a teenager and was a regular on stage at Scoot n Blues (in the space thats now the Irish Embassy).
He just played Saturday on the Blues Train, an offshoot of the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, and he was a Blues and Brews regular from 2001 to 2008. For Wednesdays performance, hell play solo and acoustic.
June 13 will feature Darryl Purpose. The singer songwriter had a healthy career from 1996 to 2004 touring and releasing CDs. He then relocated to Nederland, took a break from writing and performing and gambled.
Now a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, Purpose has jumped back into music. Look for a new release of original material later this summer.
On June 20, Portland, Ore., bluegrass-band Wayward Vessel will perform. Wayward Vessel formed in 2009 when guitarist Ken Chapple began playing with fiddler Julie Schmidt. They were joined in 2011 by bass player Belinda Underwood and mandolin player Josiah Payne.
Payne is no stranger to Durango, growing up as a young mandolin picker in the Pagosa Hot Strings.
After the Rochester show, Wayward Vessel will go to Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival to compete in the band competition which Paynes Hot Strings won in 1999.
Wayward Vessel also just recorded its debut, Before the Grey. Payne has always been a purveyor of new-grass, making him a nearly lifelong crowd favorite in Durango and Telluride.
The last show of the month will feature solo folkie Bruce Mandel on June 27. Mandel is a New Jersey native who began his music career on the coffee-house circuit in the East.
After attending a songwriting convention in Durango in the early 90s, he relocated here and was a co-founder of the Durango Songwriters Expo in 1996 with Jim Atteberry. Mandel now resides in Southwest Massachusetts. His latest release, Barnstorming Troubadour, will be released June 18.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.