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Backcountry Brewery opens its pizzeria with beer garden, blues

Kimberly Nicoletti

FRISCO – This Memorial Day weekend, the Backcountry Brewery will be singing the blues.

The brewery will celebrate the opening of its newly remodeled pizzeria downstairs with plenty of beer flowing from the beer garden and blues singers Mark Schlaefer and The Aimee Bushong Band.

The fifth annual MayFest will feature May Bock, bronze-medal winner at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival, hand-tossed pizza with fresh ingredients and traditional barbecue fare such as burgers, beef, hot dogs and brats.

Local blues man Schlaefer will kick off MayFest at noon Saturday with his unique version of Delta blues.

“When I play the blues, I try to bring it back to its roots,” Schlaefer said. “I try to put my own feel on these old songs. A lot of stuff I cover was written before World War II. I bring the respect of that tradition into my playing. To sing the blues is to be a witness, a witness to the tragedies of life, but more importantly to the indomitable human spirit.”

As a kid, Schlaefer lived near the Mississippi Delta, but wasn’t strongly influenced by the blues until he attended University of Wisconsin and heard blues bands from Chicago.

“I really like electric blues, and it just seemed to make sense to dig a little deeper into the roots and try to play some of the Delta-style blues,” he said. Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, James Brown and The Meters are his biggest influences. He even covers rock songs in an old blues style.

“A lot of the rock ‘n’ roll guys took blues songs and turned them into rock “n’ roll songs. I’m kinda reversing that process,” he said.

The Aimee Bushong Band will follow Schlaefer with a mixture of finger-style and slide blues, soft-rock ballads and melodic folk.

“I play songs that have meaningful lyrics as well as humorous, satirical lyrics and ballads on my acoustic that have heartfelt, meaningful lyrics,” Bushong said. She moved to Aurora after living in Steamboat Springs for six years. “Working three jobs, being broke and getting cabin fever because it’s so cold makes for some good tunes.”

Her voice has been compared to Janis Joplin’s, with her more husky blues songs and Jewel’s, with her tender melodies, she said.

“It’s just a different sound. I’ve got a lot of influences that may be connected in one song, like a blues song with a different drumming beat,” she said. B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson influence her blues, while Beth Orton, Sheryl Crowe and Bonnie Raitt influence her folk music.

Bushong plays at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and Schlaefer plays an additional show from 3-5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call (970) 668-BEER.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

MayFest

– When: noon Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26

– Where: Backcountry Brewery, Frisco


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