Steamboat is for Music Lovers
● By Alesha Damerville
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS– Where else can you find a small town where people travel from large cities to witness live music? Steamboat’s music scene is like no other.
Each winter, coveted musical artists bring their music to the Yampa Valley. Options abound for the music-lover: free concerts, music festivals and smaller venues draw in crowds from near and far. Whatever your preferred genre, you can listen to it nearly every day of the week.
Steamboat also offers a Steamboat Symphony Orchestra holiday concert, winter programming at Strings Music Festival, and an eclectic variety of live music at the Chief Theater.
“For such a small population, we are able to draw in a huge piece of the music industry,” says Séan Regan, music enthusiast and owner of the Old Town Pub. “Bands that headline Red Rocks are playing our free shows at Howelsen Hill and at the base of the Gondola, as well as music festivals and smaller venues like ours.”
Greensky Bluegrass has played in Steamboat Springs three times. During its initial visit, the band found inspiration in the valley. “Paul and I put together one of our songs, ‘Don’t Lie,’ in Steamboat,” dobro player Anders Beck says. “He had some words and chords. I had this lick and screw kind of thing, which is like the hook of that song. We were sitting on this picnic table by the Yampa River and we put those together and that’s how the song came to be.”
Greensky isn’t alone in finding inspiration in this magical valley – Keller Williams spent time growing both his life and musical career in Steamboat Springs from 1995 to 1997. The creation of the solo acoustic music from Williams can be tracked around the country, but Steamboat Springs inspired four of his original songs: “Putting on the Freshies,” “221,” “Dear Emily” and “Landlord.”
Steamboat MusicFest and WinterWonderGrass are the two biggest music festivals at the Steamboat Ski Area during winter.
Steamboat MusicFest, commonly known to locals as “Texas Week,” spans six days in early January and offers Texas and Americana music from over 50 bands and performers to approximately 6,000 Southern music fans visiting the valley.
WinterWonderGrass festival takes place in late February and draws in about 5,000 people per day. The acts vary from well-known bands on the bluegrass circuit to up-and-coming and local artists. This festival also features craft beer samplings each day, included with a ticket purchase. Attendees can take the free bus and catch all of their bluegrass acts five minutes from their doorstep.
While many of these acts travel to Northwest Colorado to perform, Steamboat is a mecca for both music lovers and artists – although often, that's one and the same. Local artist Rachel Melby isn't in a band, but frequents the open mic scene. “The energy you get from locals is incredible,” she says. “You show up for open mic and you end up collaborating with other talented artists, possibly writing a new song together. The audience here is warm, respectful and excited to hear people play.”