Venue-hopping in Durango is easy.
In particular, summertime rules on the corner of College and Main allow you to move from one place to another easily: The Balcony to The Summit is a flight of steps, about eight paces, and another flight of steps. Avoiding covers in both places is an added bonus, which is the case Saturday for an early show featuring Psychedelic Mojo from Bayfield on the outside followed by the later show of Champagne with Friends on the inside.
Psychedelic Mojo is 17-year-old Garrett Jung on guitar and vocals, 17-year-old Ian Hermanns on bass, and 14-year-old Tait Hermanns on drums. They’re a young rock band playing classic rock and some originals and are already becoming quite seasoned. They’ve played some well-attended shows, including stops at The Balcony, The Derailed Saloon, Blondie’s in Cortez and a memorable set at KDUR’s Led Zeppelin night when Garrett cut his hand during “Good Times Bad Times” and bled all over his instrument. And the music never stopped. Rock and roll.
Champagne with Friends is a trio led by Thomas Champagne on bass and vocals. Now based in Charleston S.C., the rest of the band is Brad Halter on guitar and Chris Bonneau on drums. In March, they released their sophomore effort, “Life.”
Champagne’s career began in Texas. The Beaumont native, like many other musicians from anywhere in Texas but Austin, relocated to the capital to form his band. What began as a reggae and funk acoustic band has grown into a rock and pop band with a loose-folk sound.
“The sound has turned poppy over the years, as far as the song we’re creating,” Champagne said last week from Texas. “They still have that strong reggae and funk and dance influence to them, but they’re really catchy.”
You can hear Champagne’s musical favorites in the band’s sound. He cites G-Love and Special Sauce, Soul Coughing and Sublime as musical influences, and Bob Marley, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder for inspiring his songwriting.
Champagne’s backing band has allowed him to stretch out as a musician. He started out as a bass player. As he began to grow into a songwriter, guitar became the instrument of choice. But for this tour, he’s back on the bass, a welcome move to his original instrument.
“I went back to playing bass, and now I think I’m a better bass player now that I went back to it,” he said. “We’ve got a killer trio. These guys I tour with are top-notch, we’re laying the songs down and presenting them in a good way.”
In addition to the Summit show, Champagne with Friends also will play Saturday morning at Durango Mountain Resort for the Quarter Horse Bicycle Classic.
A mea culpa: In my column last week I mentioned that local band 1000 Rogues had played at the VFW and the Elks Lodge. Members of the band informed me they have played neither of those places, but they have played numerous times at the American Legion. My apologies to the band and to the good people and promoter at the Durango American Legion.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.