Roosevelt Collier's Colorado Get Down Feat. Bill Nershi 2.17 & 2.18.16

The Barkley Ballroom
Frisco, CO

Words & Photos By J. Picard
Video By EvenStev & Carly Marthis

The motorhome roared up I-70 from Denver, headed west up the mountain towards Frisco under the beautiful Colorado sun! On board the mothership was Roosevelt Collier, Bill Nershi (The String Cheese Incident), Alwyn Robinson (Leftover Salmon), myself, Matt and Teri Maylen (whose motorhome it was) and our tour pup, Moose. The Allman Brothers' Eat a Peach played over the soundsystem while the team talked through some material, joked, laughed and soaked up the beauty that surrounded us! The craft was loaded with gear, snacks, beer and general non-sense, which was par for the course. Moose took a liking to Bill, cuddling up and invading his space big time, all but sitting on his lap. We passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel, dropped down into Dillon, CO and a short time later arrived at The Ramada Limited in Frisco. Just as we arrived, the power came back on at the hotel so we checked in and threw some stuff into our rooms before reconvening at the motorhome to head over towards Main Street to grab some food and load in at the venue. The day was already off to a great start with everyone in high spirits and the night was shaping up to be something special!

We headed over to Backcountry Brewery where the staff was excited to have us! Following some great food and beer we headed to The Barkley Ballroom to load-in alongside our friends from Genetics who would be supporting both nights. The venue is located downstairs which meant we would be lugging our gear from the motorhome down a large grated staircase and into The Barkley Ballroom. A short soundcheck was followed by the band running through a few songs as a couple of folks wandered into the venue in disbelief. Once Roosevelt and the band were comfortable with the stage setup and sound, we handed it over to Genetics for their soundcheck and headed back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation. In the lobby we found a couple of plates of warm cookies, per Roosevelt's earlier request. Without speaking about the cookies or any excitement at all, we one by one passed by the plates collecting our cookies and heading to our respective rooms. A short time later, my wife, Carly, arrived for the madness.

A couple of hours later we gathered at the motorhome and were on our way to the venue for the evening's main event. Upon our arrival the line was out the door and Genetics was getting after it. As Wednesdays at The Barkley are typically "Bluegrass night," Genetics toned down their set with some slower more explorative tunes, as opposed to their typical shredfest. Owner Todd Altschuler tended to the door checking some IDs and greeting folks. I appreciate an owner/buyer/promoter that is humble enough to take on the most basic of roles at an event as it shows solid leadership and a willingness to help at all levels. Our team got situated both in the greenroom and in a few chairs next to the stage. The place was going nuts as Genetics dipped into some captivating music and seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage. The three bartenders bounced back and forth behind the bar serving patrons at a rapid rate, all with a smile and great customer service. It was cool to see a mountain venue firing on all cylinders on a Wednesday!

At one point, one of Genetics' amps failed and Bill quickly stepped up and shared his. Genetics wrapped up their set around 10:45 PM and after some shifting of gear, the evening's headliner took the stage. The Barkley Ballroom was packed and buzzing with the folks up front standing inches from some of their favorite musicians with massive smiles on their faces. Rosie cranked into some screaming train whistle sounds before sliding into a shuffle with Bill leaning into his guitar as the band went around the bend. The lights were intense as the crowd jumped around the packed venue, taking advantage of the rare Wednesday treat! Roosevelt introduced the band, encouraged everyone to drink and enjoy themselves, then jumped right back into the music! Sixteen minutes after they started, the first song of the weekend came to a close. The second song of the evening was a funk jam that lead to Roosevelt stepping back from the pedal steel to enjoy his band's output before Josh laid down some nasty bass, then passed it to Alwyn who tore up the kit. Roosevelt and Bill jokingly tried to get Alwyn to stop and then joined him.

The Roosevelt/Andy Thorn original "Skunk Mountain," came next with some interesting interplay between Rosie and Bill. The track has morphed into a wild jam and a hodgepodge of solo sections that culminate with the signature melody, that doesn't always leave and return to the station at the same time. A Bill contribution, "Outside and Inside" came next and the crowd erupted in cheer. A couple of ripping exchanges between Bill and Rosie led towards the set's conclusion and the band making its way to the greenroom as folks stopped them for photos and signatures. Backstage the band pieced together a loose setlist and after a short break, returned to the stage for the second set.

The set began with The Allman Brothers Band's "Hot Lanta!" The guitars screamed in Allman Brothers fashion as the assembled project did great justice to a classic tune. The constant changes and deep jams proved to be no issue for the focused four that dove deeper and deeper into the composition. Bill turned back to Alwyn who started slowly and built up into a massive five minute drum solo. The stuff that Alwyn was outputting reflected a truly diverse and musically insightful cat. The band returned to the stage and resumed with "Hot Lanta." Lenny Kravitz's "I want to Get Away" followed with Roosevelt mocking the vocal lines. The group dropped into a sort of dubbed out section as they transitioned into Billy Cobham's "Stratus" to close the second set.

Roosevelt thanked the bartenders for their hard work and let them know that he'd be coming over after the show. The band launched into "Jellyfish" with Bill handling the vocal raps. "Alice!" the crowd yelled with Bill before the band jumped into double time and Bill ran in place! It was a great end to a wild evening of music in Frisco, but wouldn't mark the end of our fun. The band shook hands and posed for pictures while the bar cleared out before heading to the motorhome and back to the hotel. Most of our group headed to bed while a few of us snuck into the hot tubs around 3:00 AM for a late night soak under the stars.

Then next morning we awoke to warnings of a snowstorm incoming that evening. My hangover was moderate and I needed some bacon, so I texted the group and those who were up met in the parking lot to head over to the Log Cabin Cafe on Main Street. Bill showed us some of his bird photography and we spoke about Hawaii, where Carly and I would be heading a mere month and a half away for my brother's wedding. We arrived back at the hotel where another soak came into play. We headed back to our room and as we passed Bill's room we could hear a few of the guys working through material for that night. We had the whole afternoon to relax and unwind and as we did I reflected on how special of an experience it was that we were in the midst of. I thought about the first time that I saw The String Cheese Incident in 2003 at Bonnaroo. I thought about the first time I took Matt and Teri to see the band at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI in 2004 and how I met Carly at SCI's 2010 Red Rocks run. A text message came through from Roosevelt and it was a video of Bill playing "Colorado Bluebird Sky" in his hotel room.

Vince Herman swung by the hotel to take Alwyn to Avon for a Winter Wondergrass pre-party while the rest of the group hung in Frisco. Around dinner a portion of the group was off to Ollie's for some apps, food and great company. At some point in the conversation, Matt and Teri were talking about their former tortilla chip company, Great Lakes Chip Company, and it came up that I designed the logo and label for their bags. "I also designed the label for a chip company," Bill said with a smile. It turned out to be true, which was super weird. The snow started to dump on the small mountain town, as we headed across the way to The Barkley where to my delight Genetics was playing a much more aggressive set. Their abilities on stage far surpass those of most bands at their level of popularity and it was clear that night that they had gained a bunch of fans through their stellar performance. Backstage Bill and I sat and talked about Photoshop and graphic design as we waited for the team to arrive.

Fifteen minutes before their set, everyone but Alwyn had arrived for the show. With the roads being slick from the snow, we were concerned that the weather may delay his arrival. To our delight he came walking through the backstage door and we cheered. "How much longer until our set starts?" Bill inquired. "I've been waiting all day to play," he said with excitement. A few of the Genetics guys stopped backstage to grab some gear and cases, as Rosie and the Get Down hurled compliments at them regarding their performance. The guys finalized their setlist (which was taken from the stage at the end of the show without me getting a glance at it for this review) and made their way to the stage. Once again The Barkley was packed and ready to go.

Rosie's squad came out of the gates ripping with excitement. There was only a song or two on the previous evening's list that the band had yet to get to, so they were added to night two's setlist. Only a couple of repeats came in the form of "Hot Lanta," which the band wanted to dig into deeper and "Jellyfish," which Roosevelt enjoyed so much on night one that they decided to do it again. Jimmy Smith's "Root Down" made the cut, as well as Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" that featured Bill and Rosie up front. As the first set came and went, welcoming set two, myself, Carly and a couple of the Genetics guys danced and got down to the action. From what I recall the evening was pretty blues heavy and towards the end was contrasted with a dedication to Matt and Teri in the form of "Colorado Bluebird Sky," to close the weekend. The crowd was satisfied and it was fun to see fans being able to interact and get photos with some of their favorite musicians!

I joined Bill and Rosie at the bar for a shot to celebrate a job well done, before settling up with Todd who seemed very pleased with the weekend! We loaded up our gear, grabbed the fruit tray, dodged a fan who was trying to convince us to give him a ride home in the motorhome and we were back at the hotel for another round of latenight hot tubbing. The next morning we awoke in a haze, cleared out our room and loaded up the car. While we waited for everyone, Carly and I headed over to Starbucks passing Bill and Rosie who were on foot. We ordered our fuel, paid and waited. The drive thru window opened and the gentleman handed us our cups, letting us know which was which as he handed them over. I grabbed the cups and to my surprise and confusion, they were empty. From inside we could hear Bill and Roosevelt laughing. I sat up and looked through the window to see Bill wave before they gave us our actual drinks.

Back at the motorhome before lift off, Bill sat singing "Windy Mountain," a song about Coal Creek/Nederland, where both he and Matt and Teri own homes. Teri and Carly drove our Jeep down the mountain while Matt, Rosie, Bill and I headed down in the motorhome, conversing about Bluegrass, Sacred Steel and the likes. We pulled into downtown Denver where the sun was shinning on a 70 degree day. We unloaded Bill's gear, said our goodbyes, Bill and Matt exchanged numbers and Bill's wife, Jill, scooped him up. We headed back to my house where the motorhome returned to its launchpad. We had a riot in the mountains. The whole experience was surreal and Roosevelt still had another day in town.

The following night was swung by Cervantes where he sat in with Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, before heading to The Ogden for a sit in with G. Love & Special Sauce. What started off as a "work" trip to the mountains felt more like a vacation, as is often the case. It's these experiences that make what we do worth it and the stories of those experiences that we will later tell as a sort of literary cache in a long string of tall tales...


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