Fort Collins string band Head for the Hills plays Saturday at Mahogany Ridge before starting a summer tour that will take band members across the West and Southeast.
- Saturday, May 31, 2008, 10 p.m.
- Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, 435 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs Head for the Hills bassist Matt Loewen has a hard time explaining what sets his band apart from a traditional bluegrass act.
Guitarist and vocalist Adam Kinghorn has a distant punk-rock past, but lately he's been dedicated to roots music. Fiddle player Joe Lessard occasionally incorporates a taste for hip-hop, but a Head for the Hills song comes off as something firmly planted in music that predates that genre by close to a century.
Even if the Fort Collins quartet can't explain where its sound comes from, the result seems to be working. After a Saturday night set at Mahogany Ridge, Head for the Hills heads to Kansas to play a spot at Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, sharing a huge bill with the likes of David Grisman, The Flaming Lips, Blackalicious and Built to Spill.
Loewen talked to 4 Points about selling out the band's favorite venue, braving the wiles of the Midwest and getting comfortable with a new spin on old music.
4 Points: What have you guys been up to since the last time you came through Steamboat Springs?
Matt Loewen: We did a spring Midwest tour, which we've done before, but we went to a few new places this time, like North Dakota.
4 Points: How was North Dakota?
ML: North Dakota was actually surprisingly good. They have a good little music scene, and a lot of people who come out to see bluegrass shows. : Then we took a little bit of time off, and we just did a show with Billy Nershi from The String Cheese Incident at Mishawaka Amphitheatre and sold that out.
4 Points: That's a pretty good size venue to sell out.
ML: It's about 1,000 people. It was crazy. We've been playing there for a long, long time, inside and outside - they have a smaller inside thing they do shows on during the winter, and then there's the main outdoor venue.
It's been cool. I think we kind of feel like that's somewhat of our home venue, our home spot. So it was cool to be able to fill it up like that.
4 Points: And you're just starting up a summer tour?
ML: We're doing these two shows this weekend, and then we're doing Wakarusa the weekend after that.
4 Points: Are you guys planning to stay to see some of the bands playing Wakarusa? I was just looking at the line-up, and it looks pretty good.
ML: Yeah, I think Adam has to fly home, but the rest of us are going to stay. It's cool, even Emmylou Harris is playing, which is kind of unexpected.
4 Points: When you go to festivals like that or smaller bluegrass festivals, do you get to see and hear what other folk or string bands are doing?
ML: Definitely. I think in particular the festival setup is really good for that, because you get there and everybody's kind of there for the day. You meet a lot of musicians that way and you hear a lot of different music, and it leads to a lot of collaborations.
4 Points: So when you hear some of these other bands, how would you say what Head for the Hills is doing stands apart?
ML: We are managing to kind of : obviously we're not really too different in our instrumentation, other than the fact that we don't have a banjo player.
Other than that, I think the thing that sets us apart is I guess somewhat the approach we try to take to it. : It's hard to explain. I think we've been lucky enough to just kind of naturally develop this style musically that for whatever reason the different band members pull together from all our different outside influences.
I think because of that we've developed this sound that's just kind of a little different.