When it rains, it pours. But for once, it all came before the show at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre for a gorgeous Colorado night with Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and Keller & The Keels. Two hours of relentless rain kept concertgoers in their cars until well after the venue opened its gates. Nevertheless, Keller & The Keels hit the stage nearly on time and got the crowd moving.
In its latest incarnation, Keller’s band with flat-picking champion Larry Keel and wife and bassist, Jenny Keel, could be called a bluegrass band. It’s fast, tight, and twangy with just the right amount of Keller. The band treated fans to a handful of classic songs including the old favorite “Goofballs” and a reggae-tinged cover of the Butthole Surfers’ song, “Pepper.” A massive sandwich of the Grateful Dead’s “They Love Each Other” and “Cumberland Blues,” with a Harry Nilsson “Coconut” tease in the middle rounded out the set. Keller wove lyrics back and forth, beautifully layering “Cumberland Blues” lyrics over the groove of “They Love Each Other,” before gradually giving it up and singing a verse from the latter. Finally, late set sit-ins from Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn reminded concert attendees of what was to come.
Following a short set break to make up for time lost to rain, Colorado’s own Leftover Salmon came on to the pleasure of a raucous crowd. The “slam-grass” pioneers came out with a pair of aged Salmon songs and hardly let up from there. Playing a set heavy with rock and roll songs, keyboardist Erik Deutsch had plenty of time to strut his stuff. While still a relatively recent addition to the band, he brings an incredible new dimension to an already hard-hitting bluegrass band. Bandleader and guitarist Vince Herman was sure to pull out a few old classics, including “One of These Days” and “Hot Corn/Cold Corn,” before closing the set with a monster rendition of “Euphoria,” leaving the stage to Railroad Earth.
Guitarist Todd Sheaffer came on stage pumping his fist and ready to go. It was a triumphant return to the Red Rocks stage for Railroad Earth, following months of health problems for multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling. As the band dropped into the opening notes of their timeless “Seven Story Mountain,” it was clear they were playing for keeps, even having added keyboardist Matt Slocum for the entire show. The song was a fitting opener, hinting at Andy’s recent battle and more widely, at the adversity and unknown we all face in today’s national climate. They built the song patiently and flawlessly, reaching its blissful climax before slipping into another old favorite, “Long Way to Go.” It truly felt like a Railroad show of yesteryear, and the fans were well-aware. The band was firing on all cylinders, with Goessling playing seemingly more dobro than usual and bassist Andrew Altman more electric bass than usual.
Shortly thereafter, the band treated fans to a lively take of their new song “Blazing A Trail.” Solos were passed around in traditional bluegrass fashion, and the crowd happily lapped it up. After their last, exquisitely melancholic release, “Last of the Outlaws,” it’s wildly refreshing to hear the band attack a traditional song with so much ferocity. The band followed with a few more time-tested songs, including “Mighty River,” “Warhead Boogie,” and “Grandfather Mountain.” And, just when fans thought things would slow down, the band jumped into an all-too-familiar staccato intro. It was “Colorado,” and the whole band was grinning from ear to ear, likely thinking, “you thought we wouldn’t play this one?!” Following a good bluegrass workout and some stellar fiddle playing from Tim Carbone, Colorado transitioned into the brand-new song “Captain Nowhere.” Straight off their new, identically-titled EP (which was loving handed out to fans at the gates), the song was a sprawling epic with hints of rock and roll and Native American folk music. The boys took the song for a huge ride before pulling it all back together and taking their final bow just before midnight.
You can listen to the audio from Railroad Earth’s set below, as uploaded by Dave McK:
Railroad Earth will perform Colorado’s own Yarmony Grass (August 10th-13th) and a New Year’s Run in Colorado, December 29th and 30th at Boulder’s Fox Theatre, and December 31st at the Paramount Theatre in Denver.
Setlist: Railroad Earth | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 7/14/17
Seven Story Mountain, Long Way To Go, Addin’ My Voice, Walk Beside Me, Blazin’ A Trail, Mighty River, Warhead Boogie>Stillwater Getaway>Raven’s Child>Grandfather Mountain, Colorado, Captain Nowhere^
^ FTP, written by Todd Sheaffer
Check out the full gallery below, courtesy of Andrew Rios.