Blue River Series brings diverse lineup to Breck

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to the Daily

The Blue River Series adds a lot of pop – as well as country, rock, jazz and bluegrass – to an otherwise classical Breckenridge Music Festival.

This year’s lineup brings a summer full of diverse musicians, starting with country star Pat Green and including Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Trampled by Turtles, a tribute to the Beatles, Los Lonely Boys and Asleep at the Wheel.

Tonight Green returns to Breckenridge with his May release, “Songs We Wish We’d Written II.” The three-time Grammy nominee sold more than 2 million albums with his first release by the same name in 2001 – a collaboration with Corry Morrow.

With his follow-up album, the Texas star pays tribute to some of his home state and Nashville inspirations. The release delivers a mix of new songs and familiar tunes by Tom Petty, Shelby Lynne, Ross Childress and Ed Roland, interpreted by Green. But one element remains constant in the recording: His down-home charm and infectious energy.

Green grew up with eight siblings, so he got a taste of all kinds of music, from country to Motown, and, of course, the best of the 1980s.

“I’m just a fan of music, period,” he said, adding that family and life stories still fuel his writing.

He began playing beer-drinking rock and country in college to get dates – and it served him well. Not only did he marry, but he ended up wooing so many fans, People magazine hailed him “the Springsteen of the Southwest.” Now, he sells out in venues from L.A.’s House of Blues to the Houston Astrodome.

So what brings him to Breck?

“It’s pretty easy to say ‘yes’ to a gig in the Colorado Rockies in summer,” Green said.

He grew up skiing and came to Breckenridge plenty of times to take runs, but it wasn’t until 2009 when he played his first gig in Summit County.

His feel-good philosophy fits right in with the mountain culture.

“I want to have a great life,” Green said. “We all have to get born, pay taxes and die. Let’s have fun in between.”

Preservation Hall Jazz Band knows how to blow the top off the Riverwalk Center. This year, it’s partying it up big, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Allan and Sandra Jaffe founded “the hall” in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1961 to support, and perpetuate, New Orleans Jazz.

But it wasn’t easy. Racial segregation still ruled the state in public venues.

“My parents were instrumental in defying the establishment,” said Ben Jaffe, who plays in the band. “My parents fell in love with the community, the people, the history and the culture.”

From their love sprung jam sessions, which led to a cohesive band, named the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Musicians like Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton became the bedrock of the band’s style, and since then, “not much has changed,” Jaffe said. “The basic ingredients and recipe for our music are the same.”

Though the band writes original music and plays traditional tunes, “unless you knew which was which, our new songs sound like our old songs,” he said.

But old or new, these New Orleans musicians know how to infuse the mountains with a soulful party that reminds you what singing a joyful tune is all about.

Trampled by Turtles defies definition. The band has always differentiated itself from traditional bluegrass culture: Even though it uses the same instrumentation, the songs streaming out of the guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass cross the lines into rock, country, pop and punk.

The Minnesota band ditched its day job about six years ago to pursue music full time and quickly built a fan base in Colorado, since it was the first state it branched out to.

“When we started Trampled by Turtles, all we wanted to do was play music with acoustic instruments as a break from our rock bands,” said lead Dave Simonett in his bio.

So they learned some fiddle and folk songs and followed a few formulas. Then the real challenge came: Making their own music with unfamiliar bluegrass instruments.

“We were, however, having the time of our lives,” Simonett said. “So much so, in fact, that we decided … this was going to be our attempt to carve out a sound of our own using the same instruments people have used for centuries in order to express their lives in their times.”

Since then, they’ve been stepping out of their comfort zones, into the creative sonic ooze that defines a newgrass generation.

Roll up for a magical mystery tour with a classic twist July 21. For 15 years, the Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles has been touring internationally, and is now waiting to take Breckenridge away with its pop act.

The show features four performers that look, sound and move just like the Beatles. The Breckenridge Festival Orchestra will back the four chaps as they perform about 30 Beatles’ tunes, exactly as the fab-four wrote them – only this time, you’ll hear “Penny Lane” with a live trumpet section and experience “Yesterday” with a string quartet.

This Texas rock trio made a splash in 2003 with their multi-chart gold single and followed it up by winning a Grammy.

The boys began backing their father in cantinas and honky-tonks, and then tried their luck in Nashville as teenagers. But they ended up moving back to Texas, where they gained a following in clubs and released their No. 1 radio hit, “Heaven.”

Now they’re releasing their fourth studio album, “Rockpango.” It takes “fandango” (a beat of loving celebration) to the next level with Latin rhythms and Tex-Mex Americana rock.

Though the boys bring the party wherever they go, “Rockpango” carries a depth, as the artists “look at the big picture around us with the concerns and continuing faith that come with well-grounded adulthood,” according to their bio.

These days, their trademark vocal harmonies are deeper and richer than ever, syncopated by muscular percussion.

“It’s just progress, maturation and growth,” said bassist JoJo Garza. “It’s kind of like a tree. A tree doesn’t actually change as much as it grows. It gets taller, grows more branches, gets thicker and stronger.”

When it comes to certain bands, the Breckenridge Music Festival knows better than to try to reinvent the wheel. Every time Asleep at the Wheel plays the Riverwalk Center, it’s a huge success, and so, the band’s back for another year.

The nine-time Grammy-award winners began in 1970, but their love of music has kept the sound alive.

When Ray Benson started the group, he hoped to unite various age groups and political viewpoints through music. At the time, the Vietnam War and hippy movement had alienated many parents from their kids. Rock music represented opposition to the war, while country music stood for patriotism and fighting for one’s country. But Benson didn’t see music as a valid demarcation of sociological or political stances.

“(I set out to) say, ‘Hey, music transcends all of this,'” Benson said. “I can be a long-haired kid in the 1970s and still play this great country music that’s associated with our parents’ generation, which were politically and sociologically on opposite ends in the 1960s.”

Now, his music speaks to a span of generations because he stays true to Western swing, a style “that very few people can or do play,” he said.

Plus, the band rarely fails to get the crowd dancin’.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.