Big benefit concerts can be hit or miss. Unlike the TV-ready edited versions, star studded, one-off musical marathons are often much better on paper than what mega-hyped rosters suggest. The Four Mile Canyon Revival Concert, an unprecedented evening of jamband heavyweights coming together to raise funds for victims of this summer’s wildfires in Boulder, was not such an event; at least not if you count yourself a fan of jambands.
Billed as a historic night of Colorado-based bands, along with some very special guests who happened to be in town, the Four Mile Canyon Revival showcased some of the biggest names in Colorado improvisational rock – enough to make the show a near-instant sellout. It was an electric, albeit very long Saturday night inside the reinvented arena in Broomfield, Colorado – equidistant (-ish) to Denver and Boulder. Starting with Leftover Salmon and ending with the requisite, stage-packing jam session ending, the concert clocked in at 6.5 hours of music. Depending on where you stand (or twirl, noodle-dance, et al) with regards to progressive rock-styled improvisational music, that is either 6.5 hours too long or the ‘best value for concert buck imaginable’. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. Indeed it was a long night, but to harp on that fact would be uncouth. Like going to a rave and griping about excessive strobe lights. Respect the community norms, and all that, brah.
Throughout the evening, performers and speakers interspersed performances by speaking passionately about the resilience and perseverance of the literally burned out community. What was most remarkable was the tone, one not of sadness, but of inspired celebration. Celebration for the heroic efforts resulting in zero loss of life despite the fires being Colorado’s most structurally destructive. Celebration for the coming together of friends, neighbors and strangers lending a hand to those who lost everything. Folks who were given less than 15 minutes to gather a lifetime’s worth of belongings before being evacuated by authorities. Celebration for the efforts of tireless firefighters and work crews combating nature at its most merciless in conditions barely, if at all, imaginable.
It is difficult to realistically comprehend what one would do given similar circumstances. With just minutes to decide which belongings to take with you while knowing the odds of seeing your house again are greater as a pile of unrecognizable ashes than the cherished home called your own. All the while watching helplessly from afar wondering which fate will beckon beneath the enormous, noxious cloud of burning earth. Thoughts racing to decide what is important enough to take are as much an answer to the question as they are a mirror for reevaluating the “stuff” we convince ourselves are instrumental to the color of our lives. Universally, it is tragedy such as these that crystallize the importance, or lack thereof, of what gets left behind. Not simply due to practical reasons, but perhaps because deep down we know that these things are useless, crap even. So when forced to face the cathartic freeing of oneself from hoarding, it leaves room for greater clarity for what is of value. Room for irreplaceable photographs, mementos. The most critical and cherished items needed when faced with the fury of destructive fate. It seems the repeated stories of escape focus on those snapshots of life, and not life’s physical “trophies”, which unlike physical memories, can easily be replaced.
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It was Labor day weekend when the air above Boulder filled with thick smoke. A month later on October 9th the atmosphere inside the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield turned to good times for a good cause (and the air was also, umm, smoky). Colorado favorites Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Head Todd & the Monsters and the String Cheese Incident sharing a bill with Vermont’s greatest export, the in-town jam heavyweights from Phish. Drummer Jon Fishman sat in with Yonder, master of the ivory Page McConnell sat in with Leftover Salmon and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio joined bassist Mike Gordon for a rare set of acoustic Phish songs which was arguably the highlight of the night.
The lineup: Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Trey Anastasio & Mike Gordon of Phish, String Cheese Incident.
Photos of all, after the jump.