Early in the history of the Arkansas Valley, miners spent months searching for nuggets of valuable minerals, hoping to locate the mother lode.
Music is replacing ore in the 24-mile stretch between Buena Vista and Salida, but one need look no farther than concert venues to locate a great score.
“There’s gold in them thar hills” — golden tunes, that is.
The Lariat hosts The Groovers Present: An Arkansas Valley Music Showcase, an all-star group of local musicians Saturday including fan favorites from past and present.
Grab a seat early to catch a jam session between former members of Leadville Cherokee and select current members of Blue Recluse, The Groovers, Groovespeak, Rapidgrass, Mo’ Champipple and the Meso Horns and a few special guests.
Typically, gigs with nearly a dozen players, all from different bands, take months to arrange. In this instance, the event came together in 2 weeks.
“We (The Groovers) played on Aug. 3, and it was a really good show,” said Pete Albrecht, formerly of Leadville Cherokee. “One of the best times I’ve ever had on stage. After that, Court Johnson (owner of The Lariat), put together the idea of a showcase event, highlighting musicians around the valley.”
With that bit of inspiration, calls began and members of various local bands started signing on to the all-star evening.
The Groovers, comprised of three original members of Leadville Cherokee, including Coco Martin and Brian Carter, will be the house band for the night.
Along with new percussionist Zach Kochetta, they’ll play alongside local icons while tossing in some of their own tunes between guest appearances.
But don’t consider the gig a reunion.
Instead, it’s a celebration of talent as hidden among the populace as gold and silver once were in the mountains. “It’s a well-kept secret, the Arkansas Valley music scene, it’s undiscovered. The event is an opportunity to showcase what this area can do,” Albrecht said.
Kerry Nall and Mark Hanson of Groovespeak are part of the lineup. Albrecht has known both men for years. “Mark and I played together in an improv band The Dirty Bastards for a year and never once practiced. We just winged it on stage. What a great learning experience.”
Nall was a sound guy when he and Albrecht first met.
Jim Luchetta from Mo’ Champipple and the Meso Horns will be part of the celebration along with Ernie Hatfield, who plays keyboard for the former band along with local favorites Blue Recluse.
Alex Johnstone of Rapidgrass will join the house band and play a handful of songs.
Also taking the stage are Lariat owner’s son guitarist John Paul Johnson, who toured with Otis Taylor, and Barb Maxey, who has played in the valley for years, appearing the last three summers at The Lariat.
Twice an International Blues Challenge finalist and a classically trained violinist, Maxey will belt out up-tempo blues tunes and some country favorites during her set.
She’s excited to be part of the Arkansas Valley All-Star Jam.
“I like playing back and forth with all the musicians. What’s fun is playing off each other, something new and different. I’m looking forward to it.”
Artists joining the jam concert will play four or five songs of their own, then make way for another Arkansas Valley favorite.
While the event is an homage to the voices and musicians who call this area home, it won’t be a free-for-all on stage.
The Groovers has spent the last few weeks traveling to the practice locations of guest artists. Set lists and order of appearance aren’t final, but the all-star list of performers is rock solid.
Albrecht views the special preparation as a positive experience. “I think it’s better (practicing at a guest’s location). You want them comfortable, so it’s best to go to their space, rather than them traveling. It’s been fun, honestly, practicing in new jam rooms.”
Leadville Cherokee began as four band members sharing a house. Saturday, three of the originals will share the stage, with a powerhouse list of musicians, as ‘The Groovers.’ The assemblage of artists joining in Saturday’s jam represents a wealth of talent, in keeping with the area’s history of hidden, often tough to find, wealth.
If all goes according to plan, every member of the Arkansas Valley All-Star Jam will join together at the end of the show, which begins at 9:45 p.m., for a star-studded grand finale.