Andrew McConathy & James Thomas 6.27.20

Doug & Lindsay's Backyard
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos by J. Picard
Video by Carly Picard

We walked down the street of a neighborhood in Morrison, CO adjacent to Red Rocks. The fabled venue and landmark where my wife and I met a decade prior and where we spend a lot of time each summer, could be seen in-between each house we passed by, with their backyards set up like a vista over looking the majestic landscape. Over my shoulder was our fully loaded backpack cooler that the party's hosts had gifted us for our wedding a long five years ago. I looked back at Carly who's smiling eyes were peaking over her mask just a couple of steps behind, carrying our two camping chairs for the day's backyard concert. It had been almost five months since we last enjoyed the sweet habitual sound of live music. The closer we got to Doug and Lindsay's house, the clearer we could hear the music of Widespread Panic, who was supposed to be in the midst of their weekend at Red Rocks, but instead was piping through the sound system in the backyard. We headed down the driveway with the epic views ever expanding and located a distant spray painted circle on the lawn, meant to keep people six feet apart. We set up our chairs, I opened a Daisy Cutter Pale ale, Carly opened a Truly and we were in full concert mode. It felt good to be back!

Surrounded by the foothills outside of Denver/Boulder, we soaked up the sun, consumed some cannabis and enjoyed a ripping second set from Widespread Panic, among about fifty WSP fans. We said hello to Doug, who had a full quarantine beard and was dancing his ass off! The evening's performers, Andrew McConathy and James Thomas, arrived, grabbed a beer and began to set up. It was fitting that our first concert following the pandemic would be with Andrew, who is one of our favorite Colorado musicians and folks. I first met Andrew about ten years back at YarmonyGrass, a music festival on the Colorado River that he created and promoted. We've attended Yarmony with friends and family most of the years since and have enjoyed his band, The Drunken Hearts, extensively. I've booked the Hearts several times and even put Andrew in touch with Doug to play his wedding. Doug and I have also hosted The Hearts, as well as members of, at Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies Pre-Game show that Doug produces. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the "roots run deep" and this was a very fitting return to music for all of us. Not to mention J.B. who I have worked with a handful of times and who lived next door to my cousin and his wife in Denver, was running sound.

We chatted with Doug's wife Lindsay, who was bouncing around the yard being an epic host. Just before Andrew and James began, we grabbed our chairs and cooler and headed up to the front where there were a few open circles on the lawn. The set began with Widespread Panic's "Porch Song" as folks danced blissfully and soaked in the experience. The original "Goes To Show" went into "Sakajawea’s Reel" and was followed up with another older Drunken Hearts original "Don't Go" before Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." I looked over my shoulder to a full yard, comfortably and safely spaced, full of EZ-ups, blankets, chairs, coolers and familiarity and I smiled. Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is" was a fitting selection and sounded beautiful with James' piano work. Andrew featured a new original song, "I’ll Say it First" followed by "Prom Night" before going into the clear show highlight for me in the form of "Raleigh & Spencer," played in memory of Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band). In that moment I really began to reflect on the music community, but more specifically the Colorado music community and the depth of its nuances. The set was rounded out with another original, "Make It Out Ahead" and the Eddie Vedder cover, "Just Breathe," played in memory of Jude Wargo. After hearing a number of classic Hearts songs, it became clear that James was the pianist from the first Drunken Hearts album Live For Today, which holds a special place in my heart.

Hummingbirds buzzed over the outdoor "venue" as the duo saddled up for set two. They set started with one of the neighbors in white slacks and boat shoes singing an Eric Clapton cover. More entertaining than the cover itself was the man's cheesy cruise ship entertainer or MC vibe inclusive of crowd interaction and a number of jokes that fell very flat. The non-shtick was almost masterful. The duo forged ahead with Passenger's "Let Her Go," followed by one of my favorite Drunken Hearts' songs, "Dean Moriarty's Blues." I couldn't help but continuously glance off to my right to see Red Rocks towering in the distance, its Lower South lots completely empty. I had the realization that this would be the closest that we would get to a Red Rocks show this year and it was heartbreaking and strangely healing all at the same time. To my delight Andrew and James performed a couple of Lyle Lovett songs, "If I Had A Boat" and "LA County." Very fitting selections to round out the second set which concluded at 8:00 PM sharp with "Holes In My Shoes."

With our cups full, we packed up our setup and said our goodbyes. Walking uphill down the residential street felt eerily similar to our walk after a Red Rocks show. The air was sweet, the energy palpable and for a brief moment in time things felt normal. So much so, that we headed to our backyard in a far off corner of Denver for a campfire, some additional beverages and grateful reflection. Something that I continued to reflect on was the fact that here I was, a promoter and yet that day, I was getting my live music fix from music fans, creating a space for something that we all love so much. When the pandemic hit and the large companies, as well as, mid and small time promoters ceased operations; in many cases it was music fans themselves that picked up the reigns and made live music happen again...

Set One: Porch Song (Widespread Panic), Goes to Show > Sakajawea’s Reel, Don’t Go, For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield), The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby), I’ll Say it First (new original), Prom Night > Raleigh & Spencer (traditional, played in memory of Jeff Austin), Make It Out Ahead, Just Breathe (Eddie Vedder, played in memory of Jude Wargo)

Set Two: Eric Clapton Cover (with neighbor Jonny on vocals), Let Her Go (Passenger), Dean’s Blues, If I Had a Boat (Lyle Lovett), LA County (Lyle Lovett), Holes in My Shoes


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