A summer of free music kicked off Wednesday night in Basalt when Portland, Ore.-based soul/rock band Dirty Revival took the stage at Triangle Park. It was the first entry in this season’s Basalt Summer Concert Series, and though the series has been around for years, Wednesday’s show may have provided a hint that things are going to be a little different this time around.
Start with Dirty Revival, a sought-after, seven-piece band with horns and a big, funky sound. They’re a far cry from the singer-songwriter acts that have typified the series in the past. The change is, in part, a function of the series’ new producer, The Arts Campus at Willits, which forged deep ties in the music world in the 20 months The Temporary performance venue was open and is using those connections to give the Basalt Chamber-presented shows an upgrade.
Dirty Revival came to town last New Year’s Eve for a sold-out show at The Temporary and so enjoyed the experience that it was easy for TACAW to convince them to come back. The same holds true for the series’ next concert, blues rock guitarist Tinsley Ellis, who played The Temporary in 2018 and is another fine get for a free concert on June 26.
“He’s a great Chicago-based blues artist,” said TACAW Artistic Director Marc Breslin. “It’s that old-school, real Mississippi blues, like John Lee Hooker. He’s got a real sense of the history of the music.”
Ellis’ show will also take place at Triangle Park, but after that the free concert series will veer from the norm by two nights and a couple of blocks. The next show, on Friday, July 12, will feature Telluride-based reggae-soul band (and Temporary alums) Niceness playing a block party on Market Street in Willits.
From there, the series will move to Lions Park in downtown Basalt and back to Wednesdays for the final four shows, starting with Tierro With Bridget Law on July 17. The gypsy funk band from Loveland, Colo., features Law, a founding member of Elephant Revival, on violin and Tierro Lee, formerly of the band Kan’Nal and founder of Loveland’s annual ARISE Music Festival, on guitar.
“They played at The Temporary over the winter,” said Breslin, “and I asked them to come back that night. They were that good.”
July 24 will bring the Johnny Cash tribute band Cash’d Out, a regular visitor to the Belly Up in Aspen, and on July 31, Lions Park will welcome The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, an Indiana-based country-blues trio consisting of fingerpicked slide guitar, drums (including a five-gallon bucket) and washboard.
The series wraps up Aug. 14 when local legends Starwood get together for a reunion concert. Part of the wave of great music coming out of Aspen in the ’70s, Starwood’s members have ties to John Denver and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and have toured with such headliners as Santana, Journey and Eddie Money. More than 40 years later, they’re still a big draw locally.
“Last time Starwood had a reunion we had 800 people,” said Breslin.
For TACAW, the concert series represents a move back into the public eye as the organization tries to keep busy while getting ready to construct the first phase of its permanent home. The new venue, which will be slightly larger than TACAW’s former home at The Temporary, is going to be called The Contemporary, and construction is slated to start this fall.
“We intend to break ground in the middle of October or early November,” said Breslin. “It’ll be about 35 percent bigger than The Temporary. That’s phase one of the TACAW campus. We’ll have a room that seats 245 people, or about 420 standing up. There’ll be a community room and a 1,000-square-foot kitchen. We’re excited to get phase one going, and then we’ll have an even bigger performing arts space coming after that.”
That structure, nicknamed The Permanent, will fulfill TACAW’s mission of bringing a full-blown arts center to a parcel of land at Willits already earmarked for such a purpose. It may still be a couple of years off on the horizon, but it’s closer to reality than it has ever been, and in the meantime, Basaltines will have a slew of great free, TACAW-produced concerts to keep them occupied.