Head For The Hills 5.13.12

Mishawaka Amphitheater
Bellvue, CO

Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock

This is my third year making it up to Mishawaka on opening night for Head for the Hills. This year was harkening back to the year I saw the Waterfront Festival with a mini bluegrass extravaganza. The strength of the openers including local acoustic powerhouse, Finders And Youngberg and cowpunk face-melters, Split Lip Rayfield was enough to draw a sellout crowd. After leaving New Belgium Brewery we hopped a bus at Chippers South. The bus system has revolutionized the journey up to Mishawaka. It is a safe alternative to driving or walking on the road. We entered as Finders And Youngberg took the stage.

SET I: Muscatine, Waiting To Hear, Driftwood, Rocky Road Blues, Backin Band, Sold, Connie, Old Time’s Sake, Red Mountain Pass

I have seen Finders And Youngberg on lineups and bills across the state, but have yet to catch them live. I was pleasantly surprised by their authenticity and harmonization. They were a true bluegrass experience accentuated by the beautiful voice of Erin Youngberg who has been playing live since she was nine years old. Mike Finders pulled off some awesome flat-picking to warm up the crowd.

Up next was a personal favorite, Split Lip Rayfield. These gentlemen from Kansas never cease to blow away an audience.

SET I: Flat Black Rag, All The Same, Love, Please Come Home, Rig Or Cross, Sin River, Aces High, EZ Street, Old # 6, Redneck Tailgate Dream, Used To Call Me Baby, Biscuits, Deck Of Many Things, Devil Lies, River, Kiss Of Death

Performing in a style that has been called ‘cowpunk’, they are a high-octane combination bluegrass and venom. The centerpiece of the band is the Stitchgiver a one string bass constructed from the gas tank of a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis. To see Jeff Eaton wail away on that string is something every bluegrass fan should see before they die. They leave you with such a powerful impression. Highlights from their set included an awesome "Rig Or Cross" and a mesmerizing "Redneck Tailgate Dream." If you’ve never seen Split Lip Rayfield don’t ask any questions just go.

Head For The Hills has continued to grow and expand their sound, in particular over the course of the last year. They are a motivating force in the realm of bluegrass and demonstrate it on a near nightly basis. With shows this year in Telluride, Camp Euforia, and across the country this summer, they are really making a name for themselves. I take pride in the fact that they call Fort Collins their home and their show at Mishawaka was quite simply off the hook. They are playing tighter and with more fluidity than ever before.

The opening slot at Mishawaka has become a tradition, this being their eighth year making the trip up the canyon. Obviously they see it as an honor and a homecoming given their stellar shows over the course of nearly a decade on the stage. Great versions of "Dependant Co." and "Solsbury Hill" got the crowd going. However it was some of their new bust outs that really invigorated the audience. New tunes like "Scarp Metal" and "Blue Ruin" found their way into the rotation, but the most impressive was a take on the White Stripes’ "Blue Orchid." They just killed two full sets of music and proved once again that opening weekend at the Mish is not to be missed. Make sure you go see Head For The Hills when they make it to a town near you.

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