By Max R. Smith
The Ivy Ballroom and The Lariat are teaming up again this New Year’s Eve, hosting back-to-back performances by two of Buena Vista’s favorite bands.
The night kicks off with Rapidgrass at the Surf Hotel’s Ivy Ballroom in Buena Vista’s South Main neighborhood from 7-10 p.m., with percussionist Wally Ingram as a special guest.
Then, make your way up East Main Street responsibly for an even higher-energy show from local legends Leadville Cherokee.
With roots in the Upper Arkansas Valley stretching back to 2008, when the group formed as Colorado Mountain College students in Leadville, the band has recently reformed as a four piece that guitarist Mark Niernberger said represents the band at its most cohesive.
Although the band’s members, Niernberger, singer, guitarist and fiddle-player Pete Albrecht, bassist Brian Carter and drummer Vilous Fox, now live across the state and into Kansas, they’re still bound together by the band and by a love of this valley, which is the subject of many of Albrecht’s songs.
“We’ll never write a love song,” Albrecht said.
Instead, they opt for songs that increase the energetic momentum of their funk-meets-rock sound as it resonates with local crowds.
“Local crowds are the best,” Albrecht said.
Playing again as a foursome of old friends who learned to make music together at college, Niernberger said that the band’s sold-out show at The Lariat in June was one of the best they’ve ever played.
Of course, both The Lariat and the Arkansas Valley music scene are far different in 2019 than it was in 2009.
Then, the band brought their own PA’s to venues like the Scarlet in Leadville, early season at The Beach in South Main as well as The Lariat under its previous management in BV. Back then, they hoped they could make it through a set without equipment being short-circuited by too much spilled beer.
There was no stage to speak of at The Lariat, and Albrecht recalls insulating the band from the crowd with a semicircle of chairs.
While today bands from across the country are booked to come to Buena Vista, Niernberger said that Leadville Cherokee had to fill a void of music in the area by force, trying to convince bar owners that they should have live music.
Rapidgrass, too, is a band with roots all around Colorado that has come to settle in the Arkansas Valley even as their international reputation grows with residencies in Chamonix, France and a standing invitation to perform at Dierks Bentley’s Seven Peaks Music Festival.
This year, the quartet added bassist Charlie Parker Mertens to the fold, diversifying its high-speed western swing bluegrass sound with Mertens’s jazz fusion background.
Fiddle player Coleman Smith said that Mertens “has supercharged the energy in Rapidgrass.
“Nothing drives more than Charlie Parker Mertens on the upright bass,” he said.
Tickets for both shows can be purchased for $40 at https://bit.ly/2rrt0bO