With the snow-capped San Juan Mountain Range in the background, the reception was picturesque.
Snatched right out of the pages of a Colorado wedding magazine, the Wild Bunch Ranch was the perfect setting for a perfect evening.
The DJ table was set up next to manicured lily pond, lined with a brilliant selection of wildflowers. As the warm western Colorado sun slowly set behind a grove of mature willow trees, I checked then rechecked all my cables and connections to make sure I had everything in line.
A couple weeks earlier, as a favor to the bride and groom, I agreed to DJ their wedding. Having never done it before, I did what I do best: over-prepare.
Determined not to ruin the happiest day of my friends’ lives, I bought backup XLR cables just in case something failed. I even downloaded an app that would allow me to mix on my smart phone in the event my whole system went down.
To my relief, everything was in working order.
As guests arrived, I kicked the music off with classic Motown, “My Girl” by The Temptations, and sprinkled in little shots of 1970s-era pop such as “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone.
Hovering right around 110 beats per minute, the energy level was perfect for settling in, sipping cocktails, snacking on smoked barbecue, and enjoying each other’s company.
I kept one eye peeled on the crowd, looking for any indication that the music was not totally on point. So far, so good.
As the evening continued and dinner finished up, I started to ratchet up the BPMs and build momentum for the ensuing dance party. First though, it was time for the wedding toasts. After some nice words from the best man and a ballsy musical dedication from the bride’s sister, the celebration was officially under way.
White Christmas lights twinkled against the night sky and camera flashes popped across the property. The mood was celebratory so I opened up the playlist, dropping House of Pain, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bee Gees, Taylor Swift, ABBA and Run DMC. People were dancing and having a great time.
As the guests loosened up, they approached me with request after request.
All my preparation and planning went right out the window as they started asking for songs such as the “Chicken Dance” and the “Hokey Pokey.” Someone asked for a random country song I didn’t have. Another person requested the title track from a Disney TV show. Someone even requested that I play a YouTube video.
As a DJ, especially at an event like a wedding reception, you try and accommodate everyone’s requests. I briefly did my best to comply, franticly attempting to download songs to my iPhone. However, with no Wi-Fi and a weak cell connection, it was futile work trying to pull songs from the Cloud down to the banks of the Uncompahgre River where the reception was in full swing.
Some of the requested songs I did have. Michael Jackson, ACDC, Calvin Harris and others. Those led to some interesting dance floor moves, memorably the child who busted out of the kiddie coral and did an excellent rendition of the running man.
Thankfully, I was able to meet the only request that truly mattered, that of the groom’s grandmother. She wanted only one song for one last dance with her grandson, the appropriate “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. Fulfilling her request made the whole night worth it.
The wedding DJ experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, but you know what? Everything turned out great. That wild bunch lead me down some interesting paths and looking back, I can’t imagine a more lovely event to play.
The Loudwire Music Festival starts Friday, June 26, and by this point you’ve already made up your mind about attending this Rock Jam replacement.
You’re either going, or you’re not.
Some of the bands playing this year are great and some of the bands suck, but no matter how you come down on the lineup, you’ve got to hand it to Loudwire for assembling a unique collection of talent for this inaugural event.
From Harvard scholars to roadiesturned- rock stars, the bands playing Friday through Sunday, July 26–28, are full of surprises.
SURPRISE NO. 1
Aside from this whole music thing, Sunday headliner Rob Zombie is credited with an astounding 73 film and television projects.
Sure, he’s directed twisted horror flicks, episodes of “CSI Miami,” and is working on a movie about Groucho Marx, but it’s his work on the 1996 movie “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” that got the middle school version of myself excited.
In an uncredited role, Zombie was the animator for the desert hallucination sequence Beavis and Butt-Head trip through after eating peyote. It like, rules.
SURPRISE NO. 2
After the Blue Album scored a pair of rock hits with, “Buddy Holly” and “Undone (The Sweater Song),” Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo temporarily left the band in 1995 to enroll at Harvard University.
As a 25-year-old undergrad music major, Cuomo wrote six songs for the cult Weezer classic “Pinkerton.” After attending classes off an on for a decade, Cuomo graduated in 2006 with a degree in English.
SURPRISE NO. 3
Saturday headliners Linkin Park played its first show at the famed Sunset Strip nightclub, Whisky a Go Go. Since the early 1960s, the night club has launched the careers of numerous California-based bands including The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield, and most notoriously The Doors, Mtley Cre. Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses.
Linkin Park opened for SX-10, featuring Sen Dog from Cypress Hill, and System of a Down, playing a quick 30-minute set to a sparse room of supportive friends.
Whiskey a Go Go, on the other hand, has had such an impact on popular music that the entire venue was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
SURPRISE NO. 4
Theory of a Deadman lead singer Tyler Connolly teamed up with Chad Kroeger (Nickelback), Josey Scott (Saliva), Mike Kroeger (Nickelback) and Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam/Soundgarden) to record the smash song “Hero” from the “Spider-Man” soundtrack.
Connolly replaced Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell on the song and played the guitar solo. “Hero” went 4x platinum in the United States and was ubiquitous hit in 2002.
SURPRISE NO. 5
Needless to say, Sunday performers Hoobastank have a memorable band name.
Formed in high school, the band took its name from a German street and it has stuck with them ever since. The band, however, never intended to use the name long term.
When it came time to sign the band’s first record deal in 2001 with Island Records, Hoobastank filled out the contract as “the band formerly known as Hoobastank.”
Unfortunately, Hoobstank was well on its way to mainstream success and decided to stick with the name. Shortly after signing with Island, the band dropped the single “Crawling in the Dark,” which solidified its popularity and locked in the name for good.
SURPRISE NO. 6
There are literally thousands of Metallica cover/tribute bands. There is Misstallica, an all female tribute band; Blackened, the “ultimate Metallica tribute”; Battery, the “premiere Metallica tribute”; Metallagher, a Metallica / Gallagher Tribute show; and Beatallica, a Beatles/Metallica tribute.
So what sets One, the “Only tribute to Metallica,” apart from the others?
Members of One have worked on the Metallica tour crew and even played live with the real band. Working closely with the real Metallica, One learned how to stage a live show. It focuses on recreating the theatrics and pyrotechnics from Metallica’s ’80s and ’90s tours. It even tours with past Metallica stage props such as the Lady Liberty statue and, of course, an electric chair.
Coming off the high that was the Grand Junction Off Road and Downtown Art + Music Festival, I’m more excited than ever to see what the summer holds for live music.
June alone is jam-packed with so many festivals that even the most hardened “there’s nothing to do in Grand Junction” haters have had to backtrack on their insufferable opinions.
Starting Friday through Sunday, June 12–14, with the Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival featuring Trout Steak Revival, Jackie Greene and Elephant Revival, Mesa County plays host to a major festival for each of the remaining weekends this month. Country Jam, June 18–21, features a stacked lineup with the likes of Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Toby Keith and The Band Perry, and the Rock Jam replacement, the Loudwire Music Festival set for June 26–28, brings a mixed bag of rock ’n’ roll with headliners Weezer, Linkin Park and Rob Zombie.
If you plan on attending one or all of these events, you need to get your festival game tight if you want to survive with your dignity in tact.
As someone who has attended way too many music festivals, here are some tips for making it through the weekend.
I’m not going to cover the basics such as “wear sunscreen,” because if you don’t know to apply sunscreen before standing out in a field for 10 hours under an unrelenting summer sun, then you’re an idiot and you deserve to get toasted.
These practical tips have served me well in the past and should ensure you have a great weekend filled with live music.
1. Know your toilet situation
Unless you are going VIP (highly recommended) or were smart enough to reserve a personal toilet at Country Jam, you absolutely cannot trust that any bathroom you come across is going to be clean and well-stocked.
If you can, avoid any toilets near alcohol sales stands. That’s where the drunks are, aka that’s where the urine and vomit-soaked port-a-potties are.
Instead, look for something around the festival perimeter or near vendor booths. It’s a little farther of a walk, but the reward will be worth it. Also, before you go out each day, remember to pack a good wad of toilet paper. You will absolutely regret it if you don’t.
2. Learn to spot the douche
Whether it’s a drunk, shirtless bottle of Muscle Milk come to life or an aging hippie who somehow smuggled a hula-hoop into the grounds, these are the people who will ruin your day and should be avoided at all cost.
Spotting the douche is easy. They are the people who yell “wooooo” and “Free Bird!” any time there is a break in the music. They are the people who try and turn every audience into a mosh pit. They are the attention whores, “high fives” guy and burnouts.
Do not, under any circumstance engage with these people.
3. Be smart about drugs
Absolutely bring your painkillers (over the counter) and allergy tablets. Those are lifesavers, especially if the wind picks up or if you are camping.
As for the rest of your stash? We don’t want to know about it.
That especially means no drug stories. “Oh man, this one time I was ragging on ketamine and cough syrup ...” Stop. No.
We’re not impressed you’ve survived your own stupidity. Keep your moronic anecdotes to yourself, and stop blowing your crap weed smoke in my face.
4. Ditch the cellphone
Cell service is notoriously spotty at music festivals. If you have to communicate with your friends get some walkie- talkies. They are way more fun than you remember, plus they are reliable.
Forget about posting to social media. The last thing I need to see on my Instagram feed is a blurry picture of insert-headliner’s-name-here.
Same goes for campground photos. Just because you ripped a clean beer bong at your campsite does not mean you are #winning. It means you’re probably in line for #stomachpump or #chlamydia.
5. Learn to navigate the crowds
Ever watch a zombie movie? Crowds are terrifying. Nothing is more frustrating than battling your way in and out of festival crowds.
As soon as you get to the event survey the area and find the paths of least resistance. If you’re trying to cut to the front of the crowd, attack from the sides, not the middle.
People gravitate to center stage so walk as far as you can down the flanks, then cut across to the middle. You’ll find it easier going and limit your chances of tripping over endless, annoying rows of camping chairs.
One of John Denver’s favorite sayings was “coincidence? I don’t think so.”
Ken Dravis, musician and owner of Aspen Leaf Recording Studio in Grand Junction, heard that quote numerous times from the legend himself. Working for Starwood Security in Aspen during the late 1970s, Dravis was assigned to a guard shack on the edge of Denver’s mountain compound.
Sometimes Denver would stroll by, stop for a chat, and leave little drops of wisdom such as that quote for the guards to mull over during their generally uneventful shifts.
Dravis, who stumbled upon Starwood after other odd jobs dried up, happened to be an aspiring musician, and the person he was protecting just happened to be one of his music idols.
A fan since the age of 16, Dravis was hired to keep people not unlike himself away from the renowned musician.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
“I was a fan, but it was more like John was giving me an education,” Dravis said. “What he was writing about, I read a lot of meaning in to it. I just respected him so much. It was more inspirational to be around him than anything.”
During graveyard shifts, the 20-year-old Dravis would write songs on guitar to pass the time. Over the course of two years, Dravis eventually self-recorded a demo and passed the cassette to his music idol.
“I sat with John in his backyard and gave him a tape of my original songs,” Dravis said. “He listened to my songs and said that my writing hadn’t matured enough, but he encouraged me to get out and follow my dream to play music full time.”
Dravis took Denver’s advice to heart, left Starwood, and set out on a long journey that eventually led him to building and operating his own professional recording studio in Grand Junction.
Close to 40 years later, Dravis is paying homage to his biggest influence by covering Denver’s music.
“Rocky Mountain High: In the Spirit of John Denver” is a 12-song tribute to Denver and the effect he’s had on Dravis’ life.
Dravis sings and plays guitar on “Rocky Mountain High, careful to do Denver justice, and every detail was accounted for. To capture that signature Denver sound, Dravis included the 12-string Guild acoustic guitar on the album, an instrument made famous by Denver.
Guitarist Pete Huttlinger and pianist Chris Nole, both of whom played and recorded with Denver, also were recruited for the album. Both recorded parts for Dravis from Nashville and remotely sent them in to Grand Junction. Dravis also consulted with friend and John Denver songwriter John Sommers, and even recorded one of his tracks, “In The Grand Way,” for “Rocky Mountain High.”
Dravis’ treatment of “In The Grand Way,” demonstrates the level of scrutiny put into each track.
Instead of featuring French horn as was in the original recording, Dravis had world-renowned pedal steel guitar player Mike Johnson featured on the track. Dravis even made minor tweaks to the lyrics to improve the flow of the song.
When Sommers heard the final cut of “In The Grand Way” with Dravis’ tweaks, he said he liked it better than the original 1976 Denver recording.
It’s been 18 years since John Denver’s passing, yet his memory and legacy are far from forgotten. For Dravis, this album represents a lifetime of inspiration and each track is handpicked from the heart.
Dravis can’t exactly explain how he settled on these songs, but together they just seemed to make sense.
“For different reasons, I’m really pleased with all of the recordings,” Dravis said. “I hear little nuances where people contributed and everyone did a great job. I just fells right.”
From the opening chords of “Thirsty Boots” to the fade out on “Rocky Mountain High (single),” the album shows it is more than your typical run-of-the-mill collection of covers.
“Rocky Mountain High” is not a note-for-note cover album, rather an update version done by someone with an intimate understanding and respect for the source material.
Coincidence? I don’t think so. Dravis’ life has led to this momentous work.