Strong winds from the west blew across a dirt parking lot… people tuck their heads, pulling their hats tighter to their skulls as they struggle against the wind, walking towards a dusty, rock strewn patch of earth… getting closer, t-shirts and the tarps they are laid out on struggle to stay grounded as their owners try to protect their wares from the dust… Girls in ruffled tutu’s and fishnet stockings are re-thinking their outfit choices in light of the chill the wind brings with it- but dust and wind are commonplace occurrences for these veteran Colorado concert goers… rocks brought along specifically to hold down the forts, and fleeces tucked into backpacks bring relief while the wind is the catalyst helping to swirl the buzz of anticipation through the parking lots as concert goers gear up for a marathon evening of music.
The Fourmile Canyon Revival was one of the largest fundraisers organized on behalf of the agencies and victims of the devastating Fourmile Canyon Fire that swept through several canyons to the west of Boulder, CO in early September 2010, burning over 6,000 acres and costing over $9 million dollars to fight. To pull off an event of this scale is a challenge normally. However, the seeming ease with which this night came together, the short amount of time that it took to coordinate the likes of The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and all four members of Phish speaks to how motivated this mostly local group of musicians was to show support and lend their extraordinary talents to support their community and bring people together to celebrate the heroic efforts of our firefighters who bravely fought the devastating blaze.
Of course nothing on this scale can be undertaken without at least a little controversy. Especially in Boulder! At the center of this firestorm was the (in)ability of many locals to get tickets to the show. Of course, most would consider the fact that the show sold out in two minutes a huge success, coupled with the fact that due to those sales, over $300,000 was raised to benefit the local fire departments and residents impacted by the fire. The sticking point for many local’s was expressed as frustration over their inability to get a ticket to the show, frustration with the process and the fact that there wasn’t some sort of priority system set up to ensure more local availability of tickets. Furthermore, they expressed frustration that PhishHeads from all over the country were driving up the ticket prices, offering to pay as much as 5 times the face value of the $60 ticket, along with the fact that seemingly unscrupulous people were benefiting from the misfortune of others, making a huge profit on tickets being sold to raise money for those devastated by the fires.
The vibe at the show didn’t seem to reflect any of this controversy however… the expectations of the crowd reflected the passion of the organizers and for most, it was a chance to show their support to their neighbors (some of whom also happened to be members of the bands playing the benefit concert) and their community by giving in a way that felt right to them. But whatever the reason, the overall feeling at the start of the evening was that we were all going be treated to a powerful night of music. Cheers, high fives and handshakes directed at the firefighters in attendance… floor shaking applause for firefighters and fundraisers from everyone at the venue… good vibrations from the music inside… a sense of community that spanned across locals and tourists- everyone was thankful for the fact that no lives were lost and that everyone there was doing what they could to give back a little bit- financially, emotionally and musically.
Leftover Salmon kicked off the night and set the bar high for the acts that followed them. Having enjoyed their music since first moving to Colorado in the early 90’s this reunion was very emotional and obviously one that fans have been waiting to see. These guys set the stage perfectly for the evening of celebration and support. With the help of Phish’s keyboardist Page McConnell on the group’s zydeco influenced “Mama Boulet” as well as their rendition of Del McCoury’s “High on a Mountain”… they kept the jam going with crowd pleasing bluegrass tunes like “Everything is Round” and “Muddy Water Home”.
Yonder Mountain String Band followed, joined by Phish drummer Jon Fishman… (who toured with them previously in 2007)… their set included “Steep Graves Sharp Curves” a great rendition of the Talking Heads cover “Girlfriend is Better”; and the song that lit the whole arena up, both figuratively and literally, “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown”-.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters- the most personally affected by the fires, their drummer, Brian Nevins, was evacuated from his home. Along with Leftover Salmon… they covered a Grateful Dead tune “Friend of the Devil” that had the entire crowd on their feet, singing along, as well as their own “Conquistador” and a newer song, Rocksteady from their most recent album. And although it was obvious that the crowd was not as engaged at the beginning of their set… the long time BHTM fans were scattered throughout the area, confident in what the rest of the audience would soon realize… that these guys rock!
Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon from Phish came out with an acoustic set, which was the most anticipated act of the night. They didn’t disappoint. Even for those who are not Phish Phanatics… it was a truly amazing acoustic set including: Back on the Train, Water in the Sky, Sample in a Jar, Train Song, Waste, Possum, My Friend, My Friend, Wilson and Bathtub Gin. The amps and electricity may have been missing from the stage, but they were alive and well among the audience for this extremely tight, well performed acoustic set.
As if that weren’t enough… The String Cheese Incident rounded it out- everyone was up on the stage with these guys… Trey joined in on lead vocals for a cover of Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way….which was one of the highlights of the show, along with another well-loved song made popular by the Grateful Dead “I Know You Rider”… one that SCI does well. And I have to give a shout out to Bonnie Paine from Elephant Revival on the washboards (the ONLY woman on a stage of over 20 musicians- standout performance!). The entire troupe of musicians was up on the stage for a bluegrass inspired Bob Marley cover, One Love to close a 6 hour PLUS night of hot, intense music that brought many different influences together under one roof to reinforce the sense of community spirit that has long made Boulder, CO one of the most interesting places to live.
To download the show and donate to the Boulder Mountain Fire Relief fund, click here.