A growing trend in concert venues is to put a bunch of musicians on a moving train, invite the public and host a moving festival.
Music on a train was documented in the film “Festival Express,” which featured The Band, The Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin and others utilizing the rails as a means to tour. Using the train as a venue, where the destination comes second to the travelers’ experience with the musicians and their performances, is an unconventional approach that is catching on in more and more places.
Including Durango. The Blues Train, which is a partnership between our own Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the people behind the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, is a teaser for what unfolds in Telluride’s Town Park in September. It’s also a unique musical event that’s become so popular that organizers have expanded to two weekends this season. The first Blues Train pulls out of the station tonight and tomorrow – bands will perform as the train travels to Rockwood and back. A second Blues Train will take place in August.
Eleven bands will perform this weekend, including Big Sam’s Funky Nation, The Sugar Thieves, Todd and the Fox and Robby Overfield.
This is Overfield’s third time on the train. While he’s not a traditional blues musician, his sound is a mix of rock, soul and blues. He keeps busy playing regularly around town, and has two records coming out later this year. One will be a live release recorded with his band at the Community Concert Hall, the other a solo release. It’s all part of an effort to give the fans what they want,” he said.
“I’m learning that the listening base is diverse,” Overfield said. “I need to be diverse with it.”
The Blues Train remains a unique experience for both the performer and the patron, and great exercise in losing inhibitions and making some friends. The confines of the train force human interaction; there’s no standing in the corner doing the hipster nod to the beat of the music on The Blues Train.
“It’s a really intimate setting because of the space. You’re face to face – you’re touching noses sometimes. It’s fun, it’s cool, you can expect moving around a lot,” said Overfield.
Since the train seldom travels north at that time of the day, The Blues Train offers different perspectives of the landscape.
“You ride up at sunset. And you don’t get to do that on the train very often,” Overfield said. “In this sense you see the Needles with the pink sky and the cliffs. And it’s this scene you never see.”
Despite the obvious attraction of a historic train ride through natural surroundings, this train remains about the music. The performers will keep music going before the train exits the depot and after it comes to a stop back in town hours later.
“No artists stop until it’s done,” Overfield said. “It’s just a great event.”
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.