Head For The Hills with Paper Bird & Caribou Mountain Collective 5.13.17
Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
For the 13th consecutive year, Head For The Hills took part in opening up Mishawaka Amphitheatre for their summer concert season. And in its 101st year in existence, Mishawaka continues to be a vibrant and diverse meeting hall in the hills. This string-filled, folk-centric lineup included support from Colorado locals Caribou Mountain Collective and Paper Bird. This concert doubled as an album release party for Head For The Hills’ Potions and Poisons which dropped just a few days prior. For those of you that don’t know, Mishawaka is a small, but unbelievably picturesque venue, tucked deep in the Cache La Poudre. It’s worth your attention.
Just prior to the start of show time a man near the front of the stage had a seizure. Security and medical personnel were quick to respond and by all reports the man was in stable condition by set break. Always be aware that Mishawaka sits at just about 6,000 feet above sea level so it can affect people in crazy ways. The Caribou Mountain Collective were a man down, but mandolinist Dave Pullins filled in nicely with his fast picking and idiosyncratic singing style. CMC got the crowd engaged early with a spot-on rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Old Man From The Mountain.” The vocals of Miles Perry ooze with authenticity as seen in the brooding moonshine ballad “Up In Them Hills.” The slack jawed fiddle tune “Dirt” was a stark juxtaposition to the tragically magnificent “Fire Of 53.” After Pullins took a turn with the enigmatic “Neil Diamond’s Dress,” CMC closed with the bluegrass traditional “Reuben’s Train.” Caribou Mountain Collective continues to breathe new life into the classic songs of yesteryear, while innovating bluegrass with distinctive picking and powerful lyrics. They were a great addition to the lineup.
Head For The Hills is simply put the best musical endeavor to emerge from Fort Collins in recent memory. Focusing on many of the tracks off of Potions and Poisons, Head For The Hills treated local fans to a powerful pair of sets. They opened with the feisty “Afraid Of The Dark” featuring violinist Joe Lessard’s gritty vocals. Their version of the Merle Haggard classic “Mama Tried” was received well, they segued beautifully into the instrumental “Wild Horse.” It was around this time they were joined by local legend Boots Jaffee on harmonica. He would sit in again during set two. If the legend is correct, Boots has sat in with H4TH at every one of their Mishawaka shows. (As of press time I was unable to confirm.) Head For The Hills regularly includes composed instrumentals which almost act like various bridges for the set. Sam Parks has taken on many new roles with the band including singer and songwriter. His talents were obvious on the unabashedly catchy “Sit And Whittle.” They continued with their now classic version of Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” before another instrumental in the form of “Tipsy Gypsy.” After performing “Kill Your Mama” into “Banish Misfortune” Lessard declared, “That was an Alicia Keys song into an Irish traditional because here at Head For The Hills we don’t give a fuck… wait I’m being corrected it’s because we do give a fuck.” They closed with a celebratory “Fire” sung by Adam Kinghorn.
The band returned for a quick one-two punch in the form of “Solar Bowling Shoes” into Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” Jubilant fans streamed out of the Mish towards the busses and towards home. Each year this concert marks the beginning of summer music for many Fort Collins natives. It’s a chance to reconnect with friends, the personnel at the Mish and to make plans for the summer. The story of Head For The Hills is intimately intertwined with that of Mishawaka. I for one am grateful for this tradition. Things change, but some things never do. I hope Mishawaka is one of those that never does.
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