Moviegoers may lament the decision by Abbey Theatre owner Chuck Kuehn to no longer show films at the downtown venue,but their loss is a boon for music lovers in Durango.
Kuehn is now dedicating all of his efforts to booking live concerts, and he's starting 2010 with some good ones. The
Abbey Avalanche Music Festival, which may or may not become an annual event, starts Saturday night with a visit from
Greensky Bluegrass and continues through Jan. 23 with seven concerts in eight nights.
We wanted to get on a regular schedule for music shows and provide a more consistent music venue," Kuehn said.
That means shows every Friday and Saturday, and we have to stay available to catch national acts who can only come
through town during the week. And that means we can't commit to the movie studios for a set schedule."
Kuehn said the Abbey still will be available for special-event movies and will remain a host venue for the Durango
Independent Film Festival The Avalanche festival should get off to a strong start this weekend with the Kalamazoo, Mich., bluegrass stars, followed Sunday by a return visit from The Band of Heathens of Austin, Texas. After a day off
Monday, the festival continues Tuesday with guitar virtuoso Tim Reynolds; on Wednesday the Fort Lewis College
ensemble The Swingtones play the week's only free show; Thursday welcomes Vince Herman and Great American Taxi;
Wisebird plays Jan. 22, and the festival concludes Jan. 23 with a concert by singer-songwriter Megan Burtt. Most of
the shows also will feature local opening acts including The Scrugglers, Kirk James, RedEyed Djinn and Gigi Love.
Greensky Bluegrass is one of the busiest touring bands going, playing more than 150 shows a year and sharing stages
with the likes of Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Del McCoury. The all-acoustic band features Michael
Arlen Bont on banjo, Dave Bruzza on guitar, Mike Devol on upright bass, Paul Hoffman on mandolin and Anders Beck, whose experience playing in Durango virtually makes him a local, on dobro. Saturday's show also will mark the debut
of All Access: Volume 1," a two-CD set that's the first in a planned series of limited edition, live releases. Local
startups The Scrugglers will open the show.
The Band of Heathens' show Sunday will be the band's second at the Abbey this year. The Heathens played the Abbey in
July shortly after a critically-acclaimed appearance on Austin City Limits" and a rousing set at Austin's South by
Southwest music festival in March, both of which helped launch the band to national prominence. Since its Durango
appearance, The Band of Heathens released One Foot in the Ether" and the latest tour is in support of the new album.
The band's sound is straightforward rock with a Southern twinge, but the crossover creates a sound more soulful and
bluesy than country-rock, which for many of us is a good thing. The Heathens feature a unique three-frontman approach
that was fused in an Austin club where Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist each regularly fronted his own band.
The three sat in on each other's sets, started playing together and eventually formed The Band of Heathens.
That's how we've operated - nothing planned, it just kind of fell out of the sky and the chemistry's there. That
makes the rest of it a lot easier," Jurdi said Wednesday from Jackson Hole, Wyo., where the band was playing before
heading back to Colorado.
The current tour would make any skier jealous.
Since New Year's Day, The Heathens have played to crowds in Steamboat, Vail, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Idaho and Park
City, Utah. But life on the road for a touring band is work, and Jurdi said there was no room in the van for skis or
Everyone plans on (skiing) when we see the schedule, but by the time we set up, do a sound check and get settled, there's just no time," he said.