First summer concert to attract visitors from all over this weekend
Steamboat Springs — A Chris Robinson Brotherhood set list is equivalent to an open canvas.
Each of the songs follow an intended structure, but within that, there is a point of departure into the unknown.
“That is a fun element for all of us, to be able to interact with each other and communicate musically,” said Tony Leone, drummer for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. “When the band is having fun playing music with and for each other, the audience is right there with us. It opens up the opportunity for some real magic to happen for everybody. Every night that we play, that’s what we strive for.”
Drawing from the philosophy of intermingling jams with “throwing things against the wall to see if it sticks,” Leone said most of their shows run to the last minute of the three hour mark. CRB — comprised of members Chris Robinson, as frontman on vocals and guitar, Neal Casal on guitar and vocals, Adam Macdougall on keyboards, Mark Dutton on bass and Leone on drums — gives audiences their money’s worth and then some.
Following this same trend, Leone said the concert at Howelsen tonight will have its fair share of pleasantly surprising twists and turns. As the first show in the Free Summer Concert Series this summer, the opening act will be the psychedelic Americana trio, Interstate Stash Express from Boulder. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.
“I think it’s a real coup for us to have them here,” said John Waldman, concert promoter with Great Knight Productions, who helped get CRB here. “Chris Robinson, creatively, is really progressive with what he is doing, and his voice is tremendously recognizable by fan everywhere. He continues to evolve with his music.”
Combining riffs of rock ‘n’ roll with Americana roots and experimental psychedelia, the CRB, as they are known by fans, started as an experiment led by Robinson, but then turned into an official group after their California residency tour in 2011. Recently, the band has been promoting their newest album “Phosphorescent Harvest.”
It wasn’t until 2012, however, that they truly introduced themselves nationally with the release of “Big Moon Ritual” and “The Magic Door,” two albums created with a freewheeling improvisation chemistry at their core. Shortly after, a five-night stint at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco resulted in a limited live vinyl release captured by famed Grateful Dead recording engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson titled “Betty’s S.F. Blends, Volume 1.”
Spanning a spectrum wide and vast over time and genres, Leone said Robinson and Casal are like living rock n’ roll encyclopedias. But their inspiration originates from rock n’ roll — the “ultimate heroes” like Chuck Berry, Lil Richard, Elvis Priestly, Fats Domino, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
“There are a lot of elements that the band holds dear,” Leone said. “Everybody really loves rock n’ roll; that’s where the band comes from. But we also love the Grateful Dead, not only their music, but their group ensemble and the interplay of their musical communication. They had this fearlessness in entering unknown territories musically and were adventurous trail blazers in so many ways.”
CRB has a swiftly acquired a strong following from all over, especially, Waldman said, in Colorado, a “hot bed” for CRB fans. Bigger acts like CRB result in visitors seeking out Steamboat as a destination and planning vacations around the Free Summer Concert Series dates.
“I feel like we’ve really taken this year’s line up to another level with CRB kicking it off,” said Scott Fox, vice president on the Free Summer Concert Series board. “I think it’s a great fit for Steamboat.”
Creating a diverse lineup with the New Orleans Suspects, Jonny Lang, Ziggy Marley and the Jeff Austin Band, this year’s Free Summer Concert Series should appeal to a number of musical palettes. But Fox and Waldman agreed the first of these with CRB will be a great way to kick of the summer festivities.
“On Friday night, if we are looking around at each other smiling, feeling great vibes, having a good time, we just hope to convey that to whoever wants to come on that ride with us,” Leone said.
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