Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

BrewGrass festival on Pearl Street to kick off summertime twin bill


Bluegrass band Great American Taxi

Great American Taxi will headline the annual Brewgrass Festival on June 12.

If 10 hours of guitar picking isn’t enough to leave you grinning, you’ve been out on the back porch way too long.

Come noontime June 12, tie up Ole Blue, slap on that tattered Red Man cap and wander down to the 1200 block of South Pearl Street at Buchtel Boulevard. For five bucks, you can toe-tap, knee-slap and finger-pop to some of the best bluegrass tunes this side of West Virginia. Maybe even buy yourself a beer or two.

It’s BrewGrass time, the annual transformation of South Pearl’s concrete and curbs into an eight-band gathering of down-home musical talent that will do their best to knock your socks off until well after the cows come home.

Headlining the street festival is Great American Taxi, a newly garnished serving of Leftover Salmon that the band’s website calls “a swinging concoction of swampy blues, progressive bluegrass, funky New Orleans strut, Southern boogie, honky-tonk country, gospel and good ole fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.”

For a tasty helping of the sound, go to and click on the American Beauty video. When that’s got you smiling, head over to and catch the flavor of the more traditional bluegrass band that will grace the BrewGrass stage just before Taxi arrives.

Head for the Hills, a Fort Collins-centered foursome, could be the best proof around that mandolin and fiddle do as much for good bluegrass as a frosted mug does for beer. The band’s tight, acoustic sound and rousing vocals are as fresh, driving and innovative as bluegrass gets.

Those are but two of the BrewGrass festival’s lineup. Also on tap are:

 Jim Lauderdale Bluegrass Trio: A Grammy-winning Nashville veteran, Lauderdale’s music has been recorded by everyone from George Jones and Patty Loveless to Vince Gill and The Dixie Chicks;

Nation Beat: a high-energy blend of Brazilian drumming and New Orleans-style rhythms;

Hoots and Hellmouth: a hard-driving progressive revival of guitar, mandolin and upright bass mixed with tight harmonies and irreverent lyrics;

Grant Gordy Quartet: a Denver-based guitarist with what his web site calls “a rare blend of flat-picking virtuosity, jazz exploration and classical sensibility;”

Oakhurst: an upbeat, energetic embrace of traditional bluegrass that in 2007 Westword named the Best Bluegrass Band in Colorado; and

Loose Cannon: a versatile Denver-based entourage that’s as skilled playing original compositions and soft ballads as it is with traditional bluegrass and hard-charging mountain tunes.

BrewGrass is sponsored by the Old South Pearl Association, which uses the proceeds for various improvement projects. The festival site is about a block west of the Louisiana-Pearl RTD station. Show your validated light-rail ticket or RTD pass and get $1 off the $5 admission (kids under 12 are free). Since there’s no RTD garage at the site and parking in the neighborhood is limited, public transportation may be the best way of getting to the festival, says organizer Nicole Jarman.

Also, since the street can get hot, patrons are asked to keep their pets at home, she says. Some shade tents will be available, but since 8,000 or more people are expected over the course of the day, it’s best to wear a hat and sunscreen. Chairs and blankets are welcome and plenty of food and retail booths will be available in addition to 11 craft brewers and wine and lemonade stands.

About a month after BrewGrass, its summer twin will take center stage. Blues & Brews, an eight-band blues bash, is scheduled for July 10 at the South Pearl Street location.

Headlining the day-long festival is Janiva Magness, last year’s B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. Magness won the title at the 2009 Blues Music Awards over such blues luminaries as Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor and Bettye LaVette.

A performer for three-decades, Magness has been described as “a master of the lowdown blues” with a voice that’s gritty, soulful, brutal and stark.

For a taste, go to

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