Head For The Hills w/ Drew Emmitt 5.18.13

Mishawaka Amphitheatre
Bellvue, Colorado

Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock

The unofficial start to every summer concert season comes with Head For The Hills opening Mishawaka with their Pickin’ On The Poudre festivities. This year was no different and included the special treat of the first ever live performance of the Drew Emmitt Trio as well as local favorites Mosey West. The night began with a beer tasting featuring the H4TH/Odell’s Brewing Company collaboration on what has been dubbed Head For The Hills Colorado Amber Ale. This drinkable Amber is incredibly smooth and delicious with a sensible 5.1% ABV and a lightly hopped 24 IBU.

“Tastes like bluegrass.” –Matthew Fritz

A few lucky fans nabbed tickets through Mishawaka’s email list. The band sampled the beer and mingled with the crowd for about an hour before we were left to our own devices. The show was sold out so fans floated around with fingers in the air and desperately asked for extras. As the buses offloaded their cargo of people it was obvious we were all at Mishawaka for one thing, bluegrass. Mosey West took the stage right around 8:00 PM. There was a little rain during the tasting, but by the time the music began the clouds had parted and sun was beginning to set on a beautiful night in the Poudre. Mosey West is an Americana outfit with tinges of bluegrass and alt-country. Cody Russell’s slide guitar was alarmingly beautiful and added a thickness to their overall sound. Their driving song “State Trooper” was intense and beholding, however the highlight of the set was their take on The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.”

Drew Emmitt Trio made up of Drew, Andy Hall on dobro and Andy Thorn on banjo, were up next. This stellar lineup was simply mind-bogglingly good. They opened the set with the Emmitt penned “Midnight Blues” made popular by Leftover Salmon.

“Sure does feel good to be way up here in the Poudre.” –Andy Thorn

Their set was mostly a mix of Emmitt originals, Leftover Salmon tunes, and Dead covers. Joe Lessard sat in for a few tunes, which really helped to fill out their sound. Drew bounced between mandolin and guitar fluidly and helmed this group marvelously. Honestly this is a band I would go on tour with; they were that much fun. Versions of “Deep Elum Blues” and “Rain And Snow” were deliciously done bluegrass style and made for some serious dancing in the crowd. They also busted out a powerful “Troubled Times” before closing the set with the predictable, but undeniably awesome “River’s Rising.” Again this lineup is incredible and something I could simply watch for hours. I truly hope they continue to perform in and around Colorado for years to come.

Finally it was time for the two set throw down from hometown heroes Head For The Hills. They opened with an instrumental before they launched into “Light The Way.” Head For The Hills is absolutely on fire right now, with big shows at Rockygrass and around the country this summer. They are also on the cusp of releasing yet another studio album entitled Blue Ruin. Everything they touch seems to turn golden. The first set was literally a cavalcade of all the goodness H4TH puts out into the universe. “Never Does” and “Solsbury Hill” were notable high points. They invited pianist James Thomas up for a few songs including “Up On The Mountain.” James also played on the upcoming album. After a cosmic “Unchain My Heart,” the band took a set break, which caught me a little off guard because it was already late and apparently only getting later.

The second set became a massive jam session with sit-ins from local hanger on Boots on harmonica as well as Drew, Andy, and again James Thomas on keys. The end of the night played out just as expected with a beautiful cluster pluck filled with friends. Drew even came back to the microphone for “Bend In The River,” which was a nice touch. Additional highlights included a rendition of “One Foot In The Grave” and “Colorado Back Country.” H4TH played into the very late evening before saying their goodbyes. These guys are destined for bluegrass greatness. With a new album coming out and a commitment to putting on powerfully original shows, they will continue to climb. Head For The Hills is Northern Colorado bluegrass and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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