The inaugural show at Buena Vista’s newest multi-purpose venue will take place Friday, as the band Rapidgrass takes the stage in the Ivy Ballroom at the Surf Hotel.
A 15-year journey has been gaining speed to culminate in a night of world-class bluegrass. For Jed Selby, developer of the Surf Hotel, the evening will showcase a vision started long ago.
Selby first began offering live music in South Main in 2007, the first show being in the Square, on the grass, in an epic rainstorm. In 2012, The Beach was born, a calling for Selby to offer free, family-friendly music every Saturday night in July and August.
Since then, the original square has grown to include an intricate sound system, a new stage, lights and locations that offer libations. Every penny made from alcohol and sponsors goes directly into the South Main Arts and Park Trust, giving funding to beautifying and keeping open space in South Main.
However, the master plan was to offer music to the community all months of the year, not just those when, statistically, one can try for good weather at night for an outdoor venue.
“The Ivy Ballroom is a multi-use indoor space that can offer year-round opportunity for not only live music, but also weddings, yoga retreats, meetings, wine tastings, etc.,” Selby said.
Coleman Smith, Rapidgrass’ fiddler, shares Selby’s vision. “The nice thing about this town is that it’s not only attractive to those of us who love the outdoor aspect – the river, the trails and biking, all that goes without saying,” Smith said. “But the cool thing about Jed’s vision is that he integrated such a community-based music presence that is just undeniably attractive to those of us involved in and passionate about music.”
At the heart of it all for Selby is the live music scene made possible by a world-class sound system that offers acoustical fidelity and a very accurate sound. There were no corners cut in this process, and for Rapidgrass this is a chance of a lifetime to offer their music in this scenario.
Brown Note Productions has created a massive sound system that offers high quality attention to every detail. “Jed didn’t cut any corners; he’s doing it right, and it’s incredible,” Rapidgrass guitarist Mark Morris said.
“Jed surrounds himself with not only the best architects and design teams you could ever imagine, but he also surrounds himself with the best chefs, the best musicians, and that’s what makes this whole thing so beautiful, and that’s why it works so well,” Smith said.
Rapidgrass also was the first band to play at The Beach in South Main in 2012. Morris remembered the gig: “We played on a tiny stage, that was held up on crates, for basically Jed’s family and my family.”
Smith, who recently opened Buena Vista’s new music school, Coletrain Music Academy, remembered the same first show at The Beach. “We were standing on pallets, with smoke surrounding our faces, with those mountain views, and we knew this was the place. Jed’s vision is the whole reason we are here.”
“It’s crazy to be a part of this process in the capacity that I am. This is the only life I’ve lived, but to have this vision blossom is a dream come true,” Morris said.
Since those early shows, Rapidgrass has released three full-length studio albums, and is scheduled to record its fourth in Chamonix, France, this summer.
The band Rapidgrass formed in 2012 and now consists of five members. According to its website, “The celebration of mountains and whitewater rapids is the inspiration for everything Rapidgrass.”
The ensemble includes Morris on guitar and vocals; Smith on violin, mandolin, and vocals; Carl Minorkey on upright bass, tenor banjo and vocals; and Alex Johnstone on mandolin, fiddle and vocals.
“We share music as friends, but we also share a love for the outdoors. It’s as important for us to rehearse as it is to bond over trail runs, powder days and runs on the river,” Morris said.
“Having multiple outlets to curate friendships makes us more comfortable to express ourselves on stage. Our shows often become bigger than any one of us, and an energy blossoms that surprises us every time,” he said.
The Rapidgrass show on Friday night opens a weekend of craft beer, bluegrass and time on the river for festivalgoers at the second Rapids & Grass Beer Festival.
“We want to bring like-minded outdoor enthusiasts together, in a family-friendly environment, listening to world-class music,” Morris said.
Rapidgrass will not only be the opening show at the Ivy Ballroom but also the headliner at The Beach Saturday night during the Rapids & Grass Beer Festival. Tickets are still available at rgfest.com/tickets.