FEATURE: Summer of Jams

By on June 14, 2016

Jackson Hole’s cup runneth over with live music, renowned touring acts.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – Say what you will about the influx of visitors in recent summers, but at least there has been a corresponding boost in the number and notability of musical acts coming through Jackson Hole.

This is not to say that Jackson is about to become an Austin or New Orleans for music-loving outdoor enthusiasts. Fans of electronic music, for example, will likely be disappointed after reading this summer music preview. Barring a secretive show in the woods, the sound of the new Marriott being built will be the closest Jacksonites hear to industrial death metal in the coming months.

Still, while you’re basking in the sun, watching some of the best bands that musical cities like L.A. and Portland have to offer, remember there is likely no better place to see them this summer than Western Wyoming.

Bring blankets, beers… and the kids

From now through August, not one week will pass when locals can’t enjoy an outdoor concert for $5 or less. So pack a blanket, bring the kids if you’ve got them, and pair the tunes with a cold beer from local breweries.

JacksonHoleLive: All shows 5:30 to 10 p.m.; $5; kids 17 and under are free. Snow King Ball Field

Now in its fifth year, JacksonHoleLive brings big-name and rising acts to the Snow King Ball Field throughout the summer, and this season is arguably its biggest yet. That’s why the series has shifted gears charging a $5 cover. Organizers say they want to keep the big names coming so they’re asking music lovers to pay a small fee.

“The goal was to ramp up the talent level this year and get our whole town down to the ball park,” said Shannon McCormick, co-founder of JacksonHoleLive and programming director at Center for the Arts. “We always miss some acts for a variety of reasons, but we are already on them for next year.”

The JacksonHoleLive lineup will launch with a Father’s Day Solstice Party featuring The Revivalists (June 19) and the annual Jackson Hole Crawfish Boil. Based out of New Orleans, The Revivalists’ gumbo of rock, folk and funk landed their latest album, Men Amongst Mountains, at No. 2 on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart. Rolling toward Fourth of July weekend, the Nola vibe will linger with Galactic (June 29), a jazzy jam band whose Jackson Hole shows date back more than 15 years.

Next up on the JacksonHoleLive stage, The Record Company (July 13) will fill the mountain air with bluesy vocals and infectious slide-guitar riffs. As of this writing, the Los Angeles band is holding the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart with their single, “Off the Ground.”

Though it is technically separate from the JacksonHoleLive lineup, The SteelDrivers (July 31) show was also booked by McCormick and company as part of the free centennial celebration for St. John’s Medical Center at Snow King. The band, comprised of accomplished Nashville musicians, has persisted since losing singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton to country stardom in 2010, winning a 2016 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album with current singer-guitarist Gary Nichols.

All of these shows will lead to a fevered finale with the pride of Charleston, South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope (August 19). On their first trip through Jackson in 2014, the husband-and-wife Americana duo commanded a capacity crowd at the Pink Garter Theatre with sultry stage chemistry.

Concerts on the Commons: Most Sundays through July and August; 5 to 9 p.m.; free. Commons area in Teton Village

Music can sound especially sweet following an afternoon of mountain biking or disc golf at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. That is the basic idea behind Concerts on the Commons. The early-evening shows have boasted a wide range of acts each year since the series’ inception in 2010.

“Every year we try to hit as many genres as we can while keeping it family friendly,” explained Ethan Oxman, talent buyer at Poppa Presents, which is behind Concerts on the Commons and the Pink Garter Theatre.

Concerts on the Commons will kick off Fourth of July weekend with indie bluegrass band and Jackson Hole regulars Head for the Hills (July 3). Local Latin and salsa group Calle Mambo and the Jazz Foundation of Jackson Hole (July 4) will take the stage the next day. Fireworks will cap off both shows.

A few weeks later, the Village Commons will pulsate with the tight reggae sounds of The Wailers (July 17). Shifting from Rastas to rimmed eyeglasses, The Oh Hellos (July 31) will showcase sibling singer-songwriters Tyler and Maggie Heath, as well as their large backing band donning an assortment of folk instruments and thrift-store looks.

160615CoverFeat-2_origWith Analog Son and Sonny Knight and The Lakers (Aug. 7), concertgoers on the Commons will get two headliners for the price of, well, none. Analog Son is a Denver-based horn-funk supergroup that was formed in 2013 by guitarist Jordan Linit and bassist Josh Fairman. An unlikely yet potent pairing, Sonny Knight and The Lakers are comprised of retired truck driver and soul singer Sonny Knight and his seven-piece backing band of 20- and 30-somethings.

If you are nostalgic for simpler times when The Wall was a landmark album rather than the bigoted fantasy of a certain presidential candidate, the Montana-based Pink Floyd tribute band Pinky and the Floyd (Aug. 14) will take you back with dead-on covers and faithful improvisations inspired by the British classic and psychedelic rock group.

Concerts on the Commons will hit the home stretch with singer-songwriter Eric D. Johnson’s Fruit Bats (Aug. 21), a folk-rock band that signed to Seattle’s Sub Pop Records and attracted a dedicated following during the early-2000s indie boom. Closing out on a local note, the final Concert on the Commons will be the summer session of this year’s inaugural Out West Fest (Aug. 28), which will again celebrate original music from soon-to-be-announced local bands.

Music on Main: Thursdays from June 23 to Aug. 11; 6 to 10 p.m.; free. Victor City Park, Victor, Idaho

The longest-running outdoor music series in the greater Jackson Hole area happens on the other side of Teton Pass. Now in its 11th year, the Teton Valley Foundation’s Music on Main series presents free Thursday concerts in the heart of Victor, Idaho.

Most of this year’s Music on Main lineup will look familiar to active members of the Jackson Hole concert scene. On the rock and soul spectrum, there will be return visits to the area from Band of Heathens (June 23), the Kris Lager Band (June 30), Cure for the Common (July 28) and Monophonics (Aug. 11). Americana favorites the Shook Twins (July 21) and James McMurtry (Aug. 4) will also be back through the Tetons. For the second straight year, the big-band Todo Mundo (July 14) will grace the Music on Main stage with their Latin- and Caribbean-influenced sound.

The sole newcomer to Jackson Hole in the 2016 Music on Main lineup is also the most colorful. A New Orleans Mardi Gras funk band turned touring act, Cha Wa (July 7) revolves around Mardi Gras Indians in ceremonial garb who sing and chant along to the group’s polyrhythmic sound.

Soundcheck Summer Music Series: Select weekend nights in July and August; 5 to 9 p.m.; free. American Legion Park, Pinedale, Wyoming

If a big crowd is not your idea of a good time, the Pinedale Fine Arts Council’s Soundcheck Summer Music Series offers national touring acts in a bring-your-own-cooler environment. Not to mention, the shows make for convenient pit-stops on the way to the Wind River Range and the Green River.

Tim Ruland is the marketing and outreach director of the Pinedale Fine Arts Council. “Luckily, in 10 years, we’ve developed some pretty great relationships with booking agents across the country who give us a shout when they have someone routed in Salt Lake City, Denver or the like,” he explained.

This year’s Soundcheck Summer Music Series begins  with a heavy helping of banjo on the Fourth of July. Wyoming’s own Jalan Crossland will be the pickin’ and singin’ headliner, while The Lowest Pair, a banjo-playing duo on the record label of indie darling Conor Oberst, will open the show. Later in the month, the foot stomping will accelerate with The Barefoot Movement (July 15), a Nashville bluegrass band built around the singing and songwriting of fiddle player Noah Wall.

Florida-born Laney Jones (July 23) sounds more like an edgy folk-pop singer than a twangy tune-writer, but her banjo strumming and catchy hooks recently earned her a spot on Rolling Stone’s monthly “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” list. Jones’ performance is followed by the progressive and eccentric string-swing band, The Appleseed Collective (Aug. 6).

Fresher festivals and fairgrounds

The downside of most summer music festivals is the hot, sweaty proximity to fellow fans. Not so in the Tetons, where there is usually free space during both the concerts and the camping. While there are perhaps additional events in the works, including an anticipated follow-up to last year’s inaugural Contour Music Festival (Sept. 23-25, lineup TBA), this summer’s festival lineup will again be anchored by a pair of weekend-long gatherings at Grand Targhee Resort.

Targhee Fest: July 15 to 17; $189 to $229; $79 for a single-day ticket. Grand Targhee Resort, Alta, Wyoming

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For more than a decade, Targhee Fest has lured groove-friendly rock bands to the resort’s base at 7,800 feet. This year’s lineup combines festival veterans with several newcomers.

“There is always an intention to bring in some younger, newer music while respecting great, older rock ‘n’ roll that may not be familiar to everyone,” noted Tom Garnsey, owner of Vootie Productions, the company behind Targhee Fest and Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival lineups.

Among the highlights on the festival’s first night will be the electric iteration of Hot Tuna, a longtime blues band fronted by former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. They will be followed by the improvisational progressive rock of Friday night’s headliner, moe.

Targhee Fest’s Saturday lineup is bolstered by intriguing back stories. The Jayhawks helped create today’s clamor for alt-country and Americana acts with their twangy rock songs in the early 1990s. Though she may not be a household name, award-winning soul singer Bettye LaVette was once signed to Motown and has finally received widespread industry praise during the past decade. Her Saturday set will be slotted between two past festival performers: the seven-piece soul-rock band Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds and the powerful vocals of headliner Grace Potter.

The final day of Targhee Fest will roll out some of the best Americana of this young century. Often coined one of the greatest folk songwriters of his generation, Josh Ritter will take the stage with his Royal City Band, while Southern alt-country band Drive-By Truckers will headline Sunday’s lineup with their hard-hitting live show. In between those two sets, the eclectic jam band JJ Grey & Mofro will keep hips shaking with their mix of soul, funk, blues and rock.

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival: Aug. 12 to 14; $189 to $229; $79 for a single-day ticket. Grand Targhee Resort, Alta, Wyoming

You don’t need to be a bluegrass diehard to appreciate the communal atmosphere of the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, but local string enthusiasts jump at the chance to catch iconic pickers in the festival’s low-key mountain setting. When the scheduled sets end, there is usually plenty of music to be played in the campground.

The 29th annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival will include longtime favorites like mandolinists Sam Bush and David Grisman and fiddle player Mark O’Connor, but Garnsey and Vootie Productions continue to incorporate more artists from outside of the bluegrass genre, too.

Both the Friday headlining set from The Infamous Stringdusters and the Saturday set from The Waybacks will welcome the vocal stylings of folk-rocker Nicki Bluhm. While the festival is lucky to have nabbed the L.A.-based indie-folk outfit Lord Huron for a Sunday set, listeners would be hard-pressed to find a bluegrass lick on the band’s pair of atmospheric albums.

There will still be plenty of modern bluegrass to round out the rest of the lineup, including Sunday headliners Trampled By Turtles and the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Sara Watkins on Saturday. Fans of that old-timey sound will be awaiting the Friday festival debut of singer-songwriter Pokey LaFarge and his swing-influenced blues, jazz and folk.

Teton County Fair Kick-Off Concert: July 27; 5:30 p.m.; free. Grassy Arena at Teton County Fairgrounds

Another concert booked by the folks at JacksonHoleLive, the free double-bill of country acts Chauncey Williams and The Younger Brothers Band and Reckless Kelly will open the 60th Teton County Fair on June 27.

Williams, a Wyoming native, reached the Billboard Heatseekers charts with his most recent album, Echo, and he has started to release new singles from his forthcoming full-length, Down with That. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Reckless Kelly’s concoction of alt-country, rock and honky-tonk remains popular in their discerning Music City nearly 20 years after the band’s formation.

Jackson Hole Fireman’s Ball: Sept. 4; 8 p.m.; $40; 21 and older. Heritage Arena at Teton County Fairgrounds

The Jackson Hole Fireman’s Ball has always been a big event that raises money for local firefighters, but event coordinator James Powell has garnered more interest by going big on musical offerings the past few years. He started with the Marshall Tucker Band in 2014, and then outdid himself with Chauncey Williams, the Sam Bush Band and North Mississippi Allstars in 2015. This year, the 76th annual Fireman’s Ball has moved from November to the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and Powell has lined up a pair of Southern rock standouts: Gov’t Mule and Blackberry Smoke.

City-worthy theater shows

Thanks in large part to a dedicated group of local talent buyers and program managers, Jackson Hole is being etched onto the map for more and more touring bands. Throughout the year, there are theater concerts befitting a bigger city, and this summer is no exception.

Fewer bills, greater thrills at the Garter

With so many outdoor shows to compete with this season, the Pink Garter Theatre is looking to entice concertgoers with a quality-over-quantity approach.

“In the past we’ve tried to book lots of smaller shows to fill up the calendar and it didn’t work well,” Oxman said. “This summer we mainly focused our energy on higher-profile and bigger-name artists.”

The Pink Garter’s warm-weather lineup begins this Wednesday with The White Buffalo (June 15), the moniker of baritone-voiced Americana songwriter Jake Smith. This Sunday, another Bob Marley connection will be coming through town when his Grammy-winning son, Stephen “Ragga” Marley (June 19), hits the stage with his reggae band.

Having already returned to Jackson Hole a few times since their Cowboy State debut at the Garter in 2012, Blitzen Trapper (July 9) will be back next month with their experimental, Western-themed folk rock. The Garter’s music will then take an abstract turn with Buckethead (July 15), the masked guitar virtuoso who has been known to robot dance and swing nunchucks on stage. He will be followed by the much-anticipated prog-psychedelic collaboration of Les Claypool and Sean Lennon, dubbed The Claypool Lennon Delirium (July 25).

Fresh off the June 10 release of their new self-titled album, Fitz and The Tantrums (Aug. 31) will play their boisterous indie pop in Jackson Hole for the first time. The popular L.A. group has evolved from neo-soul songs to synth-laden anthems since releasing their breakout debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, in 2010. Speaking of soul, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (Sept. 11) will make for a raucous ending to the Garter’s summer lineup with their big-band revival of 60s and 70s funk and R&B.

Unconventional classical from GTMF

In the middle of all that electrified fun at the Pink Garter, Time for Three (July 20) will inject some acoustic energy as part of the Grand Teton Music Festival’s first-ever gig at the venue. The classically trained trio uses their mastery of standup bass and two violins to bend genres as if they were strings, flowing from jazz to bluegrass to hip-hop.

Time for Three’s Pink Garter show will hopefully inspire concertgoers to explore more of the Grand Teton Music Festival’s summer season at Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village. Running from July 4 to August 20, the extensive lineup of classical concerts includes the festival orchestra with Maestro Donald Runnicles on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as smaller performances during the week. There will be several special guest musicians along the way, including Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti (July 21, 22 and 23) and Beethoven interpreter/pianist Jonathan Biss (Aug. 10, 12 and 13), to name just a few.

Unadulterated sound at the Center

Using the crisp acoustics of its 525-seat theater to attract performers, the Center for the Arts has brought in some big names in recent summers. For 2016, though, it tried to strike a balance between high-caliber acts and reasonably priced shows.

With the exception of the Center’s annual benefit concert featuring folk-rock singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile (Aug. 9), ticket prices run from $25 to $99 this summer depending on the show, but most acts hover in the $50 to $60 range.

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The first Center concert of the summer will be 34-year-old soul singer Marc Broussard (June 27), whose Bayou-inspired songs have likely won the hearts of many Jacksonites during their mud-season trips to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Reaching full volume in August, music will resume at the Center with prolific keyboardist and singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby (Aug. 2) and his band, the Noisemakers. The following night will mark the Jackson return of Martin Sexton (Aug. 3), who has built a long-standing career with his finger-style guitar playing and singing that effortlessly slides between baritone, mid-range and falsetto.

Curtis Mayfield left an indelible mark on soul in the 60s and 70s, and his classic songs will come to life at the Center with a tribute night from the San Diego-based Latin funk band the B-Side Players (Aug. 12). A double serving of songwriter collaborations will follow, first with Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle as Colvin & Earle (Aug.  28), then with the syncopated acoustic-guitar sounds of Keller Williams and Leo Kottke (Sept. 8).

Rising bands at bars

Sometimes the best shows are the ones that come out of nowhere from lesser-known bands. To find those diamonds in the rough, your best bets this summer will be shows at the Town Square Tavern and the Wort’s Silver Dollar Showroom.

At $10 or less, the upcoming Tavern shows from Texas outlaw-country band Mike and the Moonpies (June 23), San Francisco rock group The Stone Foxes (July 27) and L.A.’s party-time blues outfit Andy Frasco & the U.N. (July 28) should be well worth the cost of admission.

The Tavern may also be the only place where locals can catch live hip-hop in the near future, even if it is blended with country. Coming to Jackson for what seems to be the first time, Bubba Sparxxx (July 1) pioneered the fast-growing country-rap genre in the early 2000s with the help of legendary producer Timbaland.

While the Silver Dollar Showroom offers solid local music Tuesday through Saturday, it will also sprinkle in touring acts throughout the summer, starting with the psychedelic bluegrass of Bozeman’s The Kitchen Dwellers (June 17 and 18) this weekend.

By now, you’re hip to more than 70 legitimate touring acts that are traveling through the Tetons this summer, and there will be many others added as the season ensues. Though it is still lacking in genre diversity, the Jackson Hole music scene has come a long way. While that sentiment may not reduce your rage in a mid-July traffic jam on Highway 22, it is something to appreciate at your next concert. PJH

A lover of sad songs in our happy valley, Patrick Chadwick is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and a content writer for local businesses.


Gettin’ Knotty… and Mangy

With roots dating back to the 1960s, the Knotty Pine in Victor and the Mangy Moose in Teton Village share a storied history of packed shows thanks to electrifying acts. The stream of touring bands has ebbed and flowed at both venues over the years, but each bar has noteworthy concerts planned for this summer.

If you can’t make the Laney Jones show in Pinedale on July 23 as part of the Soundcheck Summer Music Series, you can see the singer-songwriter the day before at the Mangy Moose (July 22), or the day before that at the Knotty Pine (July 21). Todo Mundo will try to one-up their July 14 gig at Victor’s Music on Main with a world-music party at the Moose (Aug. 26).

Celebrating America’s independence with “cosmic Americana,” Austin’s The Lonesome Heroes (July 4) will join Jackson’s Screen Door Porch to rock an afternoon “Pig Nic” celebrating the Knotty Pine’s 20th anniversary under current ownership. Fans can catch The Lonesome Heroes for a second or even third time later that month at the Silver Dollar Showroom (July 15 and 16).

Following up a 2013 performance from their namesake at JacksonHoleLive, the Jeff Austin Band (Aug. 10 and 18) will play two shows just eight days apart at the Knotty Pine. Since leaving the Yonder Mountain String Band in 2014, singer and mandolinist Jeff Austin has put together a formidable bluegrass act that includes banjo player Ryan Cavanaugh, guitarist Ross Martin and bassist Max Johnson.

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