The HillBenders, an acoustic bluegrass act out of Springfield, Mo., plays at 7:30 p.m. today at Depot Art Center. The band recently won the prestigious Telluride Band Contest. Tickets are $15.

Courtesy Photo

The HillBenders, an acoustic bluegrass act out of Springfield, Mo., plays at 7:30 p.m. today at Depot Art Center. The band recently won the prestigious Telluride Band Contest. Tickets are $15.

Depot Art Center series kicks off in Steamboat with bluegrass band

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If you go

What: The Depot Show Concert Series featuring The HillBenders

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.

Cost: Tickets are $15 and are available at First String Music at 1880 Loggers Lane, All That Jazz at Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue, and at the door

— Nolan Lawrence will wake up in the morning after playing a show with his band, The HillBenders, and wonder whether he’s back in reality.

After just two years as a band and winning the prestigious Telluride Band Contest the acoustic pickers have been thrown into a whirlwind of “good things happening.”

Tonight, they’ll get the chance to give back to the arts community that gave them their musical path.

“Had it not been for the arts being a huge part of my life, I wouldn’t be what I am now,” Lawrence said. “This has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t have come to that realization had it not been for the things I had experienced in my youth with music.”

Tonight at the Depot Art Center, Lawrence will strum away furiously on his mandolin along with Mark Cassidy on banjo, Gary Rea on bass, Jim Rea on guitar and Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves on the dobro at the first installment of the Depot Show Concert Series.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at All That Jazz, First String Music and at the door.

Trevor G. Potter, a local musician, booking agent and promoter, partnered with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council to get the new concert series off the ground.

“We just wanted a steady outlet for good music,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s to support the Arts Council and give them a venue to promote what they do and also create a concert series for our local community.”

He said the Depot offers a venue that fills the niche between happy hour music and late-night shows. It allows for a family atmosphere and the occasional dance party.

The concert series, in which Potter hopes to include four marquee band appearances throughout winter, also will act as a fundraiser for the Arts Council’s performing arts programs.

Hillbenders

Arts Council program coordinator Park Myers said the funds raised will go to support future productions, bring big-name concerts and provide a retainer for performing arts programs as a whole.

As far as leading off with The HillBenders, Potter ac­­knowledged that Colorado is a bluegrass state, and bringing in one of the hottest acoustic bands on the circuit will appeal to a variety of acoustic tastes.

“They’re a real tight unit,” he said about The HillBenders’ technical prowess and musicality. “They have great vocals and great picking, as well. We expect it will cater to everyone’s needs as far as bluegrass goes.”

After forming in Springfield, Mo., in 2008, the lifelong musicians headed straight to Telluride, where Lawrence said he was overwhelmed by the scenery, the caliber of musicians and Colorado’s peerless support of the bluegrass genre.

The band has since shared the stage with the likes of Alison Krauss and Union Station, the Punch Brothers and Lyle Lovett, their band contest win catapulting them into a dizzying two years of traveling and studio work.

Last summer, they returned to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival to play on the main stage, in addition to more than 100 other live shows this year.

Their 2010 debut album, titled aptly to reflect the struggle of being touring musicians, is called “Down To My Last Dollar.”

But through the difficult times and the setbacks of trying to make it as acoustic musicians, Lawrence said he would wish this life on anyone with dreams of being a musician.

“I’m loving my life, and I’m loving what I do,” he said. “We all would love to give back and are dying to give back to that thing that helped get us where we are. I hope there are a bunch of youthful people out there who are dying to be tomorrow’s entertainers and tomorrow’s stars, and I hope we can continue to foster that out of them.”

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@steamboatpilot.com

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