Landlubbers, too, can find their bliss at river celebration

Animas River Days may be all about boats and the spring runoff that never happened, but there are plenty of dryland activities, too. Like music.

Granted, most of the action Saturday will happen on the river, but not to be missed are three bands playing in Santa Rita Park and another at the end of the day party at Ska Brewing in Bodo Park.

There are typically more drinking spectators on the river bank than there are participants in the river – the river parade notwithstanding). Of course, Animas River Days wouldn’t be a Durango event without some local music and some families in Chaco sandals with kids skirting around the gated-off beer garden.

Bands at Santa Rita will include The Six Dollar String Band, Poetic Minds and Freeplay.

Freeplay is the classic rock-dance band led by local guitar player Pete Giuliani, along with Orion Lukasik on rhythm guitar and vocals, Brad Tesmer on bass and Max Kelly on drums.

Poetic Minds are a rock band with leanings into the electric folk realm. They are Don Dooley on guitar and vocals, James Mirabal on guitar, Wade Finn on bass and violin and Evan Stambler on percussion. They formed last March, and play what Dooley describes as “subraliminal,” which he defined as “conscious rock un-encumbered by genre.”

The Six Dollar String Band is an old-time band in Durango’s fertile acoustic music scene. They formed through some informal picking circles when fiddle player Tony Homquist and banjo player Brendan Shafer met at the farmers market. They began playing together after some open picking sets at the Durango Brewing Co.

“We started playing together and challenging each others repertoire,” Homquist said last week from the KDUR studios. “Brendan plays fiddle, banjo and guitar, and I play so it’s fun to sit around, share tunes and swap out instruments.”

They soon were joined by Stephen Sellers on bass and Cyle Talley on guitar. As a band, they bucked up at April’s Bluegrass Meltdown when one of the headliners took a wrong turn in Albuquerque. That’s not a bad Bugs Bunny reference; that actually happened. As the crowd waited in a packed Henry Strater Theatre, the Six Dollar String Band were asked to play. Welcome to the unpredictable music business where small local bands can turn into headliners with little more than five minutes notice.

“It was something else, I’ll say that much” Shafer said. “It was really fun, it was the highlight of our meltdown weekend. We went out there and didn’t even have time to warm up. But it turned out to be really fun.”

Closing things at 7 p.m. at Ska is T.B.A. This is the band that formed out of the ashes of the now defunct jam band Cosmic Accident. The rhythm section of Jim Belcher and Aaron Lombardo remain, with Ryan McCurry on keyboards and theremin and Chad MacCluskey on guitar.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at