If you go
What: "State Bridge Lives," with Shakedown Street and several other bands
When: 1 p.m. July 25 and 26
Where: State Bridge Lodge, 127 Trough Road in Bond, about 60 miles south of Steamboat Springs on Colo. Highway 131
Cost: $15 per day or $25 for the
weekend, camping included; tickets
are available online at
Steamboat Springs At 6 a.m. June 2, 2007, Scott Stoughton got a phone call he doesn't expect to forget.
State Bridge Lodge - the music venue, riverside resort and all-kinds-welcome gathering spot just south of the Routt-Eagle county line where Stoughton had started as a musician and worked his way up to become general manager and a partner - had burned to the ground.
The fire was quick, and the stage, bar and everything else housed in the turn-of-the-century historic lodge were gone. Stoughton could live with the fact that the place went up - it was old, and as Stoughton said Friday, a "tinder box." What's troubled him for the past two years is the news that came about a week after the fire.
"I think it hit me harder when I found it was arson. I remember that phone call, and I couldn't believe it," he said. The Eagle County Sheriff's Office closed the case in August 2008 with no suspects.
Despite the damage, Stoughton drummed up a feverish level of support to get the State Bridge grounds clean. That summer, he pulled off four weekends of concerts with no permanent stage or building, he said.
On July 25 and 26, Stoughton - along with event coordinator Ted Tilton, community liaison Jake Wolf and other State Bridge supporters - will try to bring that spirit back. A two-day concert titled "State Bridge Lives" features music from Shakedown Street, The Laughing Bones, Frogs Gone Fishin', Bonfire Dub Trio and more. Tickets are $15 each day or $25 for the weekend; part of the proceeds will go to Realm of Caring, an organization that helps get musical instruments to schoolchildren.
'In the middle of nowhere'
Cell phone service is the first thing to go when you get to State Bridge, said Jake Wolf, drummer for Shakedown Street and community contact for the July 25 concert.
"The beauty of this place is just - it's huge," Wolf said. "The fact that you're so far off the grid is also huge : just the fact that you're out in the middle of nowhere with 2,000 freaks partying."
Shakedown Street credits itself as the State Bridge mascot act; Wolf was involved with the music venue for about a decade as a musician and for years before that as a fan.
"I grew up there, and I've spent a third of my life playing there. I've seen it grow and unfortunately crumble," he said.
Wolf is part of a group using what limited time and resources it has to bring back a spirit Stoughton attributed to a place where you could find "hippies and bikers and cowboys and yuppies and musicians and river rats, all just chilling out together."
Shakedown Street was the last band to play before the State Bridge venue burned and will headline the first show back in 2009.
"To have this place out there where we can have the opportunity to make music, if we didn't use it, I'd kick myself," Wolf said.
There are three more concerts tentatively planned for later in the summer; the July 25 and 26 show is definite, and organizers are trying to take the others one at a time, Wolf said. Event coordinator Ted Tilton described the concerts as "one-offs to keep the vibe and the spirit alive." Tilton said Wednesday organizers have permits for all four concerts but hadn't finalized the dates.
The stage for "State Bridge Lives" will be where the old parking lot was, Tilton said. Tickets went on sale a week ago, and organizers anticipate a strong turnout, he said. The show has a maximum capacity of 800 people, he said.
As a venue and a party presenter, State Bridge meant a lot to a lot of people, Stoughton said. The venue's future is uncertain, but there's no shortage of ideas.
"I can tell you that the future of State Bridge is in the hands of people that like to go see live music," Stoughton said. Organizers have been "pulling major strings" to drum up promotion, county permits, talent and support for the string of shows this summer, he said.
Some want to turn over control of State Bridge to a group with a "large nonprofit element" that ultimately would build a bigger, better, facility, Tilton said. Offers have come on and off the table.
Last week, State Bridge went under contract, said Mike Devins, of Re/Max of Vail Valley. The prospective buyer is in the music industry, and will make his first visit to the area today, Devins said; he did not give the buyer's name.
Tilton has been putting together a business proposal to keep the property in familiar hands, and there are a few more interested parties, Stoughton said.
In the short-term, Stoughton, Tilton and Wolf hope this summer's concerts will infuse life and energy back into State Bridge, a venue that "for so many of us held so many amazing memories and moments," Stoughton said.