Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Rock on Dillon! | SummitDaily.com
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Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Rock on Dillon!

Scott M. Estill
Challenges Choices Changes

Tourists spend over $1.2 Billion every year in Summit County and its easy to see how this number will continue to increase for the next few years (at a minimum). Yes, that means more people, more vehicles and more congestion. But it also means more revenue for the businesses who call Summit home, even if it means a longer wait at Cheeba Hut. It also means more opportunities for us who live here on a year-round basis to do things not generally available to small (by population) counties like Summit.

Rather than falling prey to the anti-Vail/anti-growth sentiment common in our community, how about realizing that as a result of living in this tourist destination we are blessed with one of the best concert venues in the country in the Lake Dillon Amphitheatre?

I say this knowing that I can walk to shows (free and paid) and be back home 10 minutes after the last note is played. I don’t have to mess with the traffic. But still, can anyone deny that the view in the evening across the reservoir (from nearly every seat) as the sun is setting is anything less than magical?



Consider yourself blessed if you have any one of the 3,656 tickets available for any given show this summer. And a major shout-out to Suzanne Phillipson in Dillon for putting together an amazing lineup. Where else can you see the Colorado Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra and a host of jazz, funk, folk, roots and rock bands for free this summer? And this doesn’t even consider the movie nights, which are also free.

According to Phillipson, the revenue collected from the paid events covers most costs for the venue for the year, including paying for the “free” shows. And what an incredible lineup of admission-based shows!



The common theme this year amongst disparate musical genres seems to be bands with virtuoso musicians with legendary live performances. Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, Goose, The National, Dirty Heads, Caamp, Trampled by Turtles, Shakey Graves, Greensky Bluegrass and Flogging Molly sounds like a dream music festival to a music nerd like me. I can promise you that you will not find a better musician in Dillon this summer than Paul Hoffman playing mandolin for Greensky. You will not find a faster and more intense bluegrass band than Trampled. And to hear Matt Berninger’s voice with the National will be a treat to say the least.

As amazing as this list is, I have omitted the one band that makes the coup for Phillipson: My Morning Jacket. I have been attending concerts for multiple decades, as my advanced age will attest. By my calculation I have been to more than 1,000 concerts, and 22 of them have involved this band from Kentucky that I consider to be the best live rock band I have ever seen. While this comment will likely generate responses about every other great band that I am relegating to second place, I think the Jacket can back it up.

To attend one of their live shows is a perfect three-hour life escape (they play a long time). For three hours stress can be forgotten as one simply connects with the music and the community it brings together. The Jacket is a difficult band to label, but if pressed I guess they would fit into and (perhaps) be the only member of the rock-jam-psychedelic-alt-country band with occasional horns category. Now 24 years old, the band has matured into the festival-headlining live act it was always meant to be.

Fans of “American Dad” will undoubtedly recognize lead singer Jim James from an episode in which Stan (the dad) decides to drop out of life and tour with the band. He later says that Jim James has the “voice of an angel,” a much better description than anything I could muster up.

Wrap that voice up in a person who often wears a cape onstage and plays a mean flying V guitar, and you have a leader supreme for a rock and roll band. But this isn’t just any band. The band centers around its rhythm section and percussionist extraordinaire Patrick Hallahan, a beast of a drummer with a surprisingly gentle touch and heart. Add in a fedora-wearing keyboardist, a rocking funky bass and a guitarist/saxophonist who often becomes a magnet for attention at live shows (rightfully so), and you have the complete rock-band package.

If you need a place to start, check out Okonokos, a two-hour live performance from 2006 available on Spotify and other streaming services. Although 16 years old and somewhat dated, it provides a glimpse into the many unique styles and energy the band incorporates into their live performances. If you don’t like this, you probably would be better served by attending a different show. But for us fans, we would rather cue up “One Big Holiday” and forget life. Throw in a sunset light show and do you really need to wonder if three hours of peace, love and great music can really be such a terrible thing?

You owe it to yourself to get tickets to see this band in an intimate outdoor venue at 9,111 feet high. I will be there for both nights and hope to see you there!

A final thought: any chance that writing this article will get me a meet and greet with the band? Asking for a friend!


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