Buffalo Commons ready to strum, sing, paddle in RiverWonderGrass raft trip
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Local soul-grass favorite Buffalo Commons is gearing up to go on a trip that, in many ways, is the first of its kind.
The RiverWonderGrass Expedition is designed by the organizer of Steamboat Springs-based bluegrass festival WinterWonderGrass through rafting company Adrift Adventures Dinosaur. The August expedition runs the 44 miles from Colorado’s Gates of Lodore to Utah’s Split Mountain Campground, through canyons and Class III rapids, over four days. The trip will keep an emphasis on healthy foods, arts and connection.
As the August expedition’s featured musicians, Buffalo Commons will supply the trip’s soundtrack. Every evening of the four-day trip will feature a campfire-lit Buffalo Commons show, sure to be intimate and tight-knit, considering the expedition’s cap of 20 clients. But for when and where the rest of the music will flow forth, that’s something only time can tell.
“One thing that’s cool about acoustic music is that it lends itself to be spontaneous,” Buffalo Commons singer, songwriter and guitarist Tyree Woods said.
“There’ll be impromptu music happening all the time,” agreed bassist Denton Turner. “(On a float trip,) you plan your destination, but everything leading up to that is undetermined; anything can happen when you’re out there. We might find ourselves playing in a cave in a rainstorm, while people are having lunch.”
“I foresee music on the boats,” Woods said, “but maybe not during the rapids.”
In addition to anticipating the effects of the trip’s open structure on the music, they’re also looking forward to the way the environments will affect the tunes.
“I look forward to hearing the upright bass’ sound bouncing off those ancient canyon walls,” Woods said.
“And I look forward to Ty’s voice bouncing off those walls,” Turner added.
The members of Buffalo Commons are no strangers to the confluence of music and rivers. They’ve played a festival set on a floating stage, and between them, they have several decades of rafting experience.
Turner and fiddle player Randy Kelley have both rafted the Ladore-to-Split-Mountain run before.
“It’s just such a special place with so much history,” Turner said, noting the striking natural landscapes and petroglyphs. “To set foot into that realm, you feel like you’re part of that history.”
This trip will be Woods’ first time rafting this stretch of river, but he’s spent time in similar areas.
“(In these areas,) there’s a feeling that you can’t quite put into words. That’s a lot of what music is: you can’t put it into words, but you can feel it,” he said. “I just want to stay open and receptive. I’m looking forward to channeling creative energy from that kind of overwhelmingly beautiful space.”
The band is also looking forward to being part of the group’s community, the bonds of which are accelerated and strengthened by the teamwork necessary to the expedition.
“Whenever you go on these trips, there’s an element of risk, danger and real consequences out there,” Turner said. “We’re doing something that’s a mission, in a way. We’re a team, all going down the river. We’re all going to have this connecting, bonding experience — that’s what I’m looking forward to most.”
“When you get into nature, whatever’s going on within you comes to the surface,” Woods said. “You walk away stronger, more in touch with yourself and more in touch with the people around you.”
As RiverWonderGrass is an offshoot of the WinterWonderGrass festivals, which Buffalo Commons has played for the past several years, the band members are very familiar with the culture of the organization.
“The WinterWonderGrass family is awesome,” Woods said. “Scotty (Stoughton, founder of WinterWonderGrass) is all about community — that’s who he really is at his core, bringing people together. And right now, in the times we’re in, that’s who we need, setting up things like this and creating ways to bond.”
The August expedition featuring Buffalo Commons is sold out, but the July expedition, featuring Lindsay Lou, Tyler Grant and special guests, has spots available. Find more information about RiverWonderGrass expeditions at adrift.com/riverwondergrass.
“We’re excited to be part of something like this,” Woods said. “I know this is going to catch on, and we’re honored and thankful to be a part of it at the beginning.”
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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