Coral Creek

Newgrass band Coral Creek plays River Runners on U.S. 285 in Nathrop Sunday.

Golden-based Coral Creek plays River Runners on U.S. 285 in Nathrop Sunday as part of the River Rhythms Music Series.

The band name Coral Creek is a tribute to the group’s two favorite regions — the Caribbean Sea and the Colorado mountains.

“Each year, we tour the islands,” Thompson said, “so we wanted to create something that paid tribute to the two worlds, both in name and sound.”

The nationally-acclaimed group calls their sound newgrass. Progressive bluegrass music is typically more acoustic.

Coral Creek takes this concept a step farther by adding saxophone and organ. While inspired by traditional bluegrass, the band doesn’t confine their music to mainstream instrumentation.

“We do more things instrumentally than in traditional bluegrass,” said lead singer and cofounder Chris Thompson. “With Bill McKay on vocals and keyboards, Nathan Peoples on the saxophone, Jack Watson on drums and Rob Garland on bass, you’ll hear a lot going on in our sound. It’s definitely up-tempo.”

Since forming in 2015, Coral Creek has performed on main festival stages, concert series, and clubs across the U.S., Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.

They’ve shared stages with a wide range of artists, including Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Bill Nershi, Vince Herman, Tim Carbone, Luke Bulla, Andy Hall, Jeff Austin, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters and Lyle Lovett Band.

Coral Creek keeps music fresh for the band members and audiences by mixing up their sets. They claim a vast repertoire of music, both originals and covers.

Thompson said the band enjoys floating between tightly-arranged tunes that stay inside the lines to jamming and going where the music flows.

“Sometimes, Nathan and I will function as a horn section, riffs or lines we’ll play behind a piano solo, for example. It comes up organically during a set. There’s enough jamming going on, very high-level instrumentalists, that when everyone is spreading their wings, the rest of us have space to work on lines and the rhythmic parts. That evolves naturally in songs we’ve played.”

Thompson teamed with co-founder Bill McKay in 2010. McKay, well known for nearly a decade of play with Leftover Salmon, also toured for 5 years with the Darius Rucker Band.

“Bill comes from a blues and R&B background. Combined with my style and the addition of Nathan on saxophone, we’ve drawn on traditional bluegrass, The Grateful Dead, The Band and Credence Clearwater Revival to create our own high-energy music,” Thompson said.

Audiences are encouraged to hit the floor and shake their stuff. “I like when people get up and dance,” Thompson said. “Folks sitting and listening to the lyrics is great (as a writer), but when they get up and shake their booty, it makes me happy.”

The free Sunday concert goes from 6-9 p.m., guests are welcome to camp overnight (for a fee). Details are available at

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