Festival gig was long time coming for Assortment

The festival circuit has long been a goal for bands looking to make a name for themselves.

Unlike the traditional bar concert circuit, playing a festival guarantees an audience, even if many of those people are likely at the event to see a different act. This could be a good and bad thing.

Sometimes at festivals, you sit through the less-interesting bands waiting for the band that you like to play its 45-minute set. Or, the unfamiliar band on the lineup could turn out to be the sleeper surprise of the weekend.

Durango’s The Assortment is a band hoping to catch that festival magic. The five-piece outfit, which has spent the last few years playing shows at the Derailed Saloon and the Balcony, as well as being the house band for the Durango Independent Film Festival parties, was recently selected to play “Crestfest,” a small festival in the hippie community of Crestone. They’ll also play Sunday at Trimble Hot Springs.

The Assortment is Jason Thies on guitar and vocals; Jeff Haspel on bass and vocals; Mike Mixter on mandolin; Kim Heikens on percussion, washboard and vocals; and Kevin Blaum on harmonica. The players formed when Thies sat in on a gig with Haspel and Heikens in 2004, and that trio has been together since, with Mixter and Blaum joining later. The Assortment recently recorded a demo of original music along with some random, obscure covers at The Magic Bus studios with Thom Rader.

Its selection into Crestfest came after Heikens and Blaum attended the festival last year, and they sent the festival organizers their recently recorded demo.

“It’s just a killer little town, and we figured we could get in this. I got all fired up and came home and decided we were going to do a demo,” Heikens said. “They have 25 bands, and we got selected out of hundreds. What they wanted was eclectic bands. They didn’t want a band that fits a category, like blues or bluegrass, and we fit right into that.”

The Assortment hopes this could open the door for other festivals. Haspel joked that this could be the band’s last opportunity, because their ages.

“Lets hope so at our advancing years, the next springboard for us may be the great beyond,” he said.

They’re certainly not old, but neither are they 20-somethings. With some of the band members having adult children, their shot at the hard-to-reach musical big-time has come after music took a back seat years ago to careers and child-rearing.

As a warmup for Crestfest (Aug. 3-5), The Assortment has an Aug. 2 slot for the “Your Concert Hall @ the Park” series, formerly “Fridays at the Fort Downtown.” The afternoon concert series began as a free concert featuring local music at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. Two years ago, the shows were moved downtown, and this summer, the series is being held every Thursday at Buckley Park. Playing with The Assortment for the series will be the Kirk James Blues Band.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.