Particle & Whitewater Ramble; Breckenridge, CO
Words By J-man
Photos & Video By Carly Marthis & J-man
Driving from Denver to Breckenrigde, I thought to myself; could life be any better? It was my twenty seventh birthday, I had the most amazing girl by my side; Carly (way out of my league), a couple of bottles of wine, and we were all squared away for our tickets/credentials for that evening to see one of my old favorites: Particle. As we headed into the mountains towards our hotel, snow covered all of the peaks as well as the sides of the road. We arrived at our humble shelter for the evening and within' seconds of arriving at the front desk, I was made an offer that I could not refuse. With the front desk clerk squared away with a worthwhile "under the table" transaction, Carly and I made our way up to our newly acquired Honeymoon/Jacuzzi Suite.
With the evening upon us, we headed the last few miles to the town of Breckenridge. What a beautiful mountain town! There were quaint little shops and studios lining the main street. We wandered the town and found a little Mexican restaurant tucked back into a small cove, dined and made our way to a tiny bar in the basement of the building directly across from the venue.
I sat and drank my amber ale and reflected on Particle, a band that used to be one of my favorites. But, since the departure of Charlie Hitchcock in 2005, I have had a love/hate thing with the band. It’s as if when Charlie left, the band slowed down, literally. It wasn’t the same raging dance party that I had come to love. Over the course of the last five years, Particle has struggled to maintain a steady/solid guitarist, often relying on guests to fill the open slot. Needless to say, when I heard the announcement that Charlie was re-joining the band for selected dates; I was excited!
With the last sip of my beer came the time to head across the street to Three20South, to catch the show opener, the Fort Collins band Whitewater Ramble. As we entered the venue we ran into Charlie. He seemed excited and I told him I'd catch up with him inside. We passed the rest of the band who was on their way out for some dinner, as we entered the venue.
I have seen Whitewater Ramble a couple of times and in the past have been impressed. That night in Breckenridge would be no different. Whitewater Ramble brought it. Dressed as the Village People, they tore through some really impressive jams. Though they appear as a bluegrass/string band, Whitewater would be best described as a jam band. The organization of their songs, instrumentation, the length of their jams and overall danceable grooves cater almost directly to the jam scene.
The energy was really high as folks continued to pile into the small downstairs venue. Their original music is extremely solid, but the highlights of the evening came in the form of a few covers. Most notably Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” which easily exceeded fifteen minutes in length and featured some of the evening's most extensive jamming. Whitewater Called Saxophonist Pete Wall and Steve Molitz to the stage for the jam and the result only yielded Pete, as Steve was nowhere to be found.
Somewhere around this time I received a text from Charlie telling me to meet him backstage for an interview...
Following the interview, we stepped outside for some fresh air and nonsense. In doing so, we ended up back across the street at the bar. After a beer or two and the use of their restrooms, we made our way back across the street to find the area in front of the venue crowded with smokers and wooks. I was impressed by the turn out and at that moment, even more excited to see Particle.
We heard the drums and felt the bass, which cued our re-entrance. Particle sounded good. They came out with their wailing jamtronica sound. I found a spot right behind Steve and watched the jam unfold. Eric was really getting into it, as I noticed him smiling and staring straight up at the ceiling. Steve was making his typical discusted space faces as he jumped around, at times doing what appeared to be a fade away from the keyboards. Pete was sitting in on Saxaphone and wandered on and off of the stage a couple of times, leaving Charlie with enough room to rip apart his guitar. I had been waiting five years to hear Charlie with Particle again, and it sounded sweet. I turned to the back of the stage to watch Darren on the drums. His playing was impressively consistent, yet seemed to be one of the main contributing factors to that slower Particle sound.
The first set was danceable and fluid, with Hitchcock sliding right back into the mix. I was unsure of Pete Wall's involvement in the band until I heard him play. I wan't sure how a sax would fit into the electronic sounding mix, but it sounded great. Pete tore it up, several times leaning down as he gave it all he had. In between his playing, Pete would close his eyes, smile and space out. It was entertaining to see one of the musicians spacing out during the jams.
Overall the first set sounded good. I was just hoping for a little bit more energy. The band would build the tension, climax, and drop into a slower than expected dance groove. At the end of the first set Steve grabbed the microphone and said "Stick around, the best is yet to come..." I hoped he was accurate.
Along with everyone else, we piled on to the streets to wander around in the cold fresh mountain air. It was at this point that the crowd size was evident. If the show wasn't sold out, it was close. The crowd spilled out into the night with wooks looking for crevices and alleys in which to smoke. With the sound of music in the distances, the crowd moved back towards the entrance.
The second set started with one of my favorite jams of the evening "Silver Lining>Launchpad". Launchpad has always been one of my favorite Particle songs, so my excitement was high... until I realized that this jam would house the same slower beat that had plagued the first set. I sighed with a little bit of frustration. The next song was "Golden Gator" which isn't one of my favorites, though with the addition of Patrick Sites on electric mandolin it sounded really good. That jam transitioned into another one of my favorites "Ed & Molly". The tempo seemed to pick up a little bit and Steve took over. Steve's liquid playing pushes the realm of earthly music. He'll take you to space at the drop of a dime, and that evening was no exception. The set finished with some additional "Golden Gator" teases and a reprise.
The energy at the end of the second set was the highest of the evening. People were excited, dancing, and sloppy as hell. It was a mess... With that thought in mind, I grabbed Carly's arm and headed towards the door. As we were leaving Particle took the stage with the announcement "We only have about a minute..."
We found ourselves back out in the cool Colorado night, hopped into our vehicle and made our way back towards our hotel. As I drove, I reflected on the evening. Particle sounded good! The jams were solid and developed, Charlie sounded great, the band seemed to really be enjoying themselves. My only complaint was the tempo of the jams. I wished they would have stepped it up just a touch on the speed to push the energy over the top. Instead we were handed a more spacey vibe and we went with it.
The remainder of my evening was spent in a jacuzzi in the mountains... Space.