For the past thirty-two years Breckenridge Brewery has thrown down a party that rivals the best music festivals in the country. Yes, it is a bold statement, but when you bring world class entertainment, masterfully crafted beer, and an arsenal of great people together to present the annual Breckenridge Brewery Hootenanny it does not get much better as far as music festivals go. From the festival's humble beginnings in the mountain town of Breckenridge to the expansive Littleton Farm House campus the event has grown along with the brewery and its mission to provide all quality all the time to all people.
Breckenridge Brewery is full of imagination and ambitious attitude, bringing a world class music festival to throngs of people year after year. They have both paddles in the water when it comes to gathering talented artists from around the world to perform at the Hootenanny. They also keep the audience entertained with interactive life size board games, cool giveaways from vendors like Never Summer Snowboards and plenty of great food and beer pairing to satisfy any palette. The brewery is also ecofriendly in its handling of waste. For the last few years Colorado company Eco Minded, a sustainability coaching business, has focused on greening up the music industry by designing custom sustainability programs focused on zero waste. The hard-working Eco Minded crew loves to share knowledge and expertise to help people live a more Eco Minded lifestyle. Check out their site - https://www.eco-minded.org.
Breckenridge Brewery, along with Colorado’s KBCO 97.3 FM, are a perfect pairing when it comes to live music. I could only imagine what the sit-down meeting felt like when Big Head Todd & The Monsters, The Spin Doctors, Railroad Earth, Anders Osborn, Bill & Jilian Nershi and Steve Poltz all confirmed their performances. This incredible line-up of musicianship is one for the history books. Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, Colorado has become a concert goers’ annual destination. This amount of talent spread over the two days, with each band performing one of their iconic albums in full, was epic!!
With perfect weather on tap for the weekend Saturday was a beautiful fall day with temperatures about seventy degrees. The early audience was treated to a wonderful set by Steve Poltz, who played material from his debut album One Left Shoe. This album was released in 1998 and holds true to the storyteller, sing-along vibe that Poltz is so well known for. He has such youthful attitude towards his musical approach and delivery of his songs. He engaged the audience at every chance he could and drives the music down an adventurous road of truthful expressive lyrical poetry and wit. The audience sang along and totally dug the vibe the one man show delivered. When I first walked up to the stage with my camera Poltz noticed me and said, ‘Let's get the best picture ever!' So, he jumped, I snapped, and I think we got a really great shot!
Anders Osborne took the stage next in the heat of the day and delivered his 2007 Coming Down album in its entirety. I asked him if he has ever played this complete album to a live audience before and he said he had not. Starting out with his acoustic guitar and with his band behind him he opened the show with the title track "Coming Down" and continued to play every track in the order it appeared on the record. This album touches on topics near and dear to Osborne’s heart. The songs are about love, his wife, and New Orleans. Osborne and his band brought these tracks to new life on Saturday delivering them with great energy and power. The dueling electric guitars between Osborne and Jonathan Sloane was a powerful offering of impeccable guitar skills and stage presence. Osborne closed the set with "Different Drum" the title track from his 2016 release Flower Box. The band played an amazing set packed with emotion, high intensity rock and roll, and the pure emotion that pours out of every note Osborne sings.
Railroad Earth decided on The Black Bear Sessions and All For The Song for their two set afternoon of music. With the stage barely cooled down from Osborne’s set the band jumped right in with their signature style of bluegrass influenced Americana that is the foundation of their sound. They used this platform to launch all kinds of progressive rock, folk, jam and jazz arrangements and their sound is literally all over the musical map. The audience was as excited as the band was and the vibe between the two was electric. All For The Song, the newest offering from Railroad Earth, was recorded in New Orleans and produced by Anders Osborne in 2019, and released in 2022. Todd Sheaffer’s voice was magical and expressive, and his guitar tone on his acoustic can be mistaken for an electric guitar at points during the set as it exudes clarity and raw rock tone. The band sounded tight and the obvious fun coming from the stage was infectious and full of cool grooves to dance to. The band's explosive innovative style just comes so natural to these guys and they simply slayed the audience with these amazing songs from both their most recent album recorded All For The Song and their debut album The Black Bear Sessions released in 2001.
Day number two of the Hootenanny was a mirror image of day one as far as the weather was concerned. Bright and sunny was once again on tap in Littleton. Bill and Jilian Nershi took the stage first performing their live album Partnership. The album was recorded at Big Basin Vineyards in Boulder Creek, California on February 14th, 2020, and released in June of the same year. The songs were written over the past couple of decades by either Bill, Jilian or the two of them collectively. They played the entire album with the songs in the same sequence on the record. Bill and Jilian’s chemistry and artistry was on full display as they performed these songs that are so near and dear to their hearts. They both have beautiful voices that are subtle yet pronounced and angelic. Bill's guitar playing is just on another level of musicianship. The two cover songs on the album are Pink Floyd’s "Comfortably Numb" and Hank William's "Blue Love." What a treat for everyone in attendance to hear the group of songs written by Bill and Jilian. By the way, if you dissect the word ‘partnership' you will find Nershi within it.
Spin Doctors took the stage next playing in its entirety the 1991 five-time platinum recording of Pocket Full of Kryptonite. They played the songs in order of appearance on the album with incredible energy, musicianship, and style. Chris Barron, the lead singer, has a powerful voice that was crystal clear and cut through the audience with razor sharp precision. His signature high leg kicks were on full display and higher than ever (the man stays incredibly fit). Back in the early nineties this album dominated the radio waves all over the world and introduced the public to the band's high energy alternative rock, funk and rock and sound. "Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong," "Two Princes," "What Time Is It," "Off My Line" and the rest of the tracks are a testament the band's talent and presentation of showmanship and musicianship. The band had great stage presence and took the audience on a wild ride of nostalgia from the past by playing this classic album. They also played a few songs not from the album including "Rock and Roll Heaven" that will be on their new album expected for release in the summer of 2023. Personally, it was a real trip hearing these incredible songs all played in one set. The band crushed it in all respects and the show was highly entertaining.
Colorado’s hometown heroes Big Head Todd and The Monsters closed out the Hootenanny Festival in fine form. The anticipation from the audience was thick in the mile high air as everyone knew what was coming. The platinum album Sister Sweetly has been ever present in the band’s history and the hearts of their fan base since its release in 1993. They played the full album yesterday and boy did that bring back a lot of fond memories for many people. These songs from this classic album are soulful, rocking, and heartfelt compositions from this incredibly talented, humble, and highly entertaining foursome. Todd Park Mohr’s voice was strong and clear and his guitar playing was an all-out sensory assault of the senses. His approach to the guitar is expressive and powerful with clear and distinct notes that cut right through you. The band is tight with talent, with a full rich sound that never lets up on the groove. The album Sister Sweetly combines rock, blues, alternative rock, and blues in a magical musical gumbo of creativity with distinct and memorable lyrics and arrangements along with clever hooks that you will never forget. BHTM played the songs with great energy and enthusiasm, the audience was moved and rocked with emotion and nostalgia as these songs were and still are ever-present in rock and roll history. The band informed me that there is new music in the works and plans for a new release are in the near future. Big Head Todd and The Monsters absolutely were the right band to close out the season. Thanks Todd, Brian, Rob, and Jeremy for rocking our souls!
Thanks to Breckenridge Brewery, KBCO 97.3 FM, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, Railroad Earth, Spin Doctors, Steve Poltz, Anders Osborne, Jilian and Bill Nershi.
Thanks to Shaped Music, Eco Minded, Never Summer and all the vendors, sponsors, staff and volunteers!