Head For The Hills w/ Nershi 4.20.12

The Bluebird Theater
Denver, CO

Words By Brandon Picard
Photos By Jon Prins
Audio Recording By Corey Sandoval (
Kind Recordings)

April 20th. Year in and year out 4/20 is an epic night in Colorado. Musical acts from in and around the great state flood to Denver for a night of beer drinking, ganja smoking, and... oh yeah, music! Head for the Hills playing the Bluebird Theatre was undoubtedly a 420 treat for all Denver bluegrass fans. The bill also included String Cheese’s Bill Nershi accompanied by his wife, Jillian. Bluegrassers were out in full effect for this wonderful night of music and celebration.

Bill and Jillian Nershi started the night off with a duet of folk and bluegrass melodies warming up the Bluebird Theatre on Friday night. With a following like the String Cheese Incident has, I was not surprised to see Cheese Heads lining the front of the Bluebird, fixated on Billy’s melodies. With some story telling backed by heartfelt folk tunes, Billy and Jillian captivated the theatre.

The vibe that Friday night was different than most. The sense of camaraderie throughout the venue was unprecedented. Hugs and laughter filled the theatre. I got a sense that when H4TH plays Denver; the love turns out, in the form of smiling fans. I felt like I was at a Christmas party with the amount of “Happy Holidays” I received. Resonating throughout the Bluebird was a constant stream of well wishes and brotherhood. By the time Billy and Jilian finished their marvelous set, the majority of the theatre had filled in with its occupiers for the evening.

Head For The Hills Live at Bluebird Theater on April 20, 2012.

Set I: Little Sadie, Midnight Highway, A Bowl of Bula, Never Does, Nooks and Crannies, Run to the Hills, Lost in the Loop, Bosun Ridely, Japenese Cowboy, Manzanita, Time to Spare, Untitled, Solar Bowling Shoes, Scrap Metal, Priscilla the Chinchilla, My Angelie

Set II: Indian Creek*, East Virginia Blues#, The Mighty Quinn#, Music for a Found Harmonium > One Foot in the Grave, Randall Collins, Mockingbird, Wild Horse, Dependency Co., Hornets, Thunderstorm, New Lee Highway Blues > Runaway, Scribe's Eye>Down the River Road

Encore: Encore-Tribute to Levon Helm, The Weight#, Goin' Down#

Entire Show with James Thomas (Keys)

* = w/ Bill Nershi
# = w/ Bill Nershi & Jillian Nershi

H4TH took the stage to a massive applause with almost embarrassingly proud smiles. They poured right into their set with a western styled melody. The hot potato styled session of flat picking, mandolin strumming, fiddle slaying and bass slapping clued me in on why this band has been named Denver’s “best bluegrass” band two years in a row at Westword Magazines Music Showcase. The growth of this band cannot be overlooked. Exploding on the scene in the last few years, H4TH are a staple in Colorado Bluegrass.

The Brand new sound H4TH brings is a flavor I had yet to taste (Boy was it delicious). As if emulating the mountains, the band rolled along endlessly depicting their version of an acoustic landscape. As the show progressed I had a sense that there were very few H4TH newcomers. The enthusiastic crowd seemed to sing every tune from start to finish. I was one of the few newcomers on board and boy was I happy to be a part of it. A few songs in and the quartet turned into a quintet with the addition of keyboardist and honorary H4TH member James Thomas. I enjoyed the extra dimension although it wasn’t completely necessary. With or without the keys H4TH played a nearly flawless set of improvisation and traditional melodies fueled by their youthfulness.

As their set ended and H4TH returned for their encore (with Bill and Jillian) I had a sense we were in for a treat. Some very kind words about The Band’s Levon Helm silenced the respectful crowd. After a few very powerful statements regarding the importance of Levon, H4TH along with Bill and Jillian broke into “The Bands” hit “The Weight”. It was clearly and emotional setting as folks throughout the venue locked arms and sang nearly every word of the timeless classic. I truly was honored to be a part of something so spectacular.

It's no wonder Head for the Hills is winning awards and packing venues. The progressive acoustic sounds they bring are mesmerizing. I look forward to the next time these guys turn out!

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