Downtown Music Festival #5
By Greg Hartman
Whoever put it together, there exists a “Grand Junction-opoly” for sale around town. Based upon the classic game, players can purchase and improve their own sections of town, including restaurants like Bin 707, “626 on Rood” and Cafe Sol, as well as important points in the valley, such as Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Mesa Theater, and CMU. For the utility slots, the game’s designers chose two big festivals: Colorado Mountain Winefest and the Four Peaks Music Festival.
There is an argument that Country Jam or Palisade Bluegrass and Roots should have been included, but those are outside contracts and could move any year. The Colorado Mountain Winefest was developed locally CAVE and the Downtown Music Festival was created to promote Downtown, Grand Junction. This is the third year that Arizona brewers Four Peaks have held the sponsorship and the fourth that it has been merged with the Grand Junction Off Road. The festival has seen constant growth and keeps trying new combinations of local, regional, and national music acts. (editor’s note: the Downtown Grand Junction website claims this was the 30th year, probably including the Arts and Jazz moniker the weekend previously held).
The “side” stages finally grew out of the alleys and into the streets, making them just as accessible as the big stage at 4th and Main. When 5:00 rolled along, Wave 11 kicked off the main stage while Tim + Richard started on 5th Street. The day was remarkably cool, with a pending storm on the horizon. That made for some remarkable scenes, although race organizers were probably nervous. Wave 11 continued its ascent towards being a headlining festival attraction, keeping beats and vocals tight. They are slated to release their first full album and tour this summer.
Tim + Richard brought along “veteran” Open Jelly bassist Felix. Sure, he may just be finishing with middle school, but that doesn’t keep him from joining Tim + Richard and impressing the public. It was a special part of music community to see the trio kick off the new stage. Situated just between the alleys of 5th and Main, the new location replaced the breezeway location, which has been redesigned as a small park.
The third stage returned to the 600 block of Main, just in front of the Avalon Theater. Originally, the stage was crammed into the breezeway next to The Shade Tree (which has great prices on Sunglasses when you lose them at a festival). That location met its limit during the third year, or more likely the second, and the large area was needed to handle the demand for Stray Grass at 6:00. Last year’s Friday headliner continued to bring in a large crowd with their mix of originals, modern bluegrass covers, and bluegrass covers of modern music. Also welcome this year was a full service Four Peaks beverage station. Their IPA still isn’t a favorite when placed against the Palisade Brewery’s Off Belay (available at Baron’s and Charlie Dwellingtons), but the Kilt Lifter and Grapefruit Raddler are a welcome addition.
The main stage transitioned to Biking details, but the party continued at 5th with Union of None. The dynamic group of musicians continued to grow their fan base, especially once the Stray Grass attendees filtered down. The trio has found their groove after founding bassist Bob Overton passed away earlier this year and Kellen Micheal stepped in. Normally an impressive guitarist for such successful bands as Snootch and The Shift, the new opportunity to play bass and leave lead guitar to Drew Fields has been an impressive combination. Continuing to hold down the drums, as well as between song banter, drummer Jeff Steele keeps things moving and provides the structure for the two talents to shine. This combination of talent and professionalism, with the added sweetness of alternative rock covers, is keeping their stock on a rise.
As if nature was holding its breath for one more Pearl Jam cover, the pending storm crashed down after Union of None finished. This kept down traffic toward the Dubious Brothers set at the 600 stage and caused a rather large gap in the music. By the time darkness hit, a large crowd was only slightly damp at 4th and main for the headlining set by Peach Street Revival. While those who have followed the band were not surprised by their slot in the day, the group is still relatively new. Their hard work and chemistry blew away any expectation, however, as the band performed like they were at the Pepsi Center. Seamlessly flowing between classic rock covers and originals, the band finds themselves breaking out at an opportune time. With bands such as Greta Van Fleet breaking out with a classic rock sound, the group’s originals continue to find a welcome audience among rock fans young and old.
For the first time, Peach Street Revival debuted the “Peaches”, two go-go dancers who accented their performance with cheerleader attire that recalled the music video for Nevermind, only a bit more punk. Bassist Jordan Will and drummer Sophia Benham kept the rhythm tight, with Will adding the types of frills one expects from lead guitar. Towards the peak of the performance, she was playing bass behind her head, something I do not recall seeing in 25 years of live shows. As expected, Benham excelled despite only being part of the band since March. Lead guitarist Cooper Schull continued his master class on remaining stoic while lighting songs on fire, while vocalist Gonzales kept the crowd enraptured with both lyrics and encouragement. Previous Downtown Music Festival headliners were an affirmation of the band’s place in the Grand Valley music hierarchy. Peach Street Revival’s performance catapulted them towards the top.