Big bands, ska bands make for a swingin’ weekend

Let the horns blow this weekend.

And not just one horn, but many. Tonight, horns will dominate the soundscape along the Animas River when Jeff Solon’s Swing’n Big Band kicks off a short tour of the San Juans. Then Saturday, Ska’s anniversary party will feature rock and horn-driven music, as The Nuns of Brixton pay homage to the Clash while Reel Big Fish and locals Buster’s Ghost provide the traditional ska sounds.

Solon’s swing band, which he has led on and off for 20 years, recently added three more members to bring the total to 11. This mini tour will kick off in Durango today with a free show at the Animas River Café in the DoubleTree Hotel; then it’s a higher-priced ticket on Saturday for the Telluride Volunteers Ball and Dance; and it will conclude Sunday with an afternoon show at the Wright Opera House in Ouray.

Ska Brewing Anniversary party is sold out – completely sold out, as in absolutely no tickets, don’t show up at the gate, you will not be let in. But a local band on the rise still deserves some ink even if the show doesn’t need any promotional assistance.

It’s fitting that a brewery named after the owners’ favorite style of music continues to host ska bands for its party, and it was because of this event and its chosen headliner that local band Buster’s Ghost formed. Buster’s Ghost is Dan Szabo on guitar and vocals, Garrett Andrews on bass, Mark Sturdevant on drums, Troy Crowly on trombone, Timmy Esposito on alto saxophone, Scott Fowler on tenor saxophone and vocals and Brandon French on trombone and vocals.

They were booked for this show before they were really a band, yet members have some ska-playing history. Fowler, Andrews, Sturdevant and Crowly were members of Free Hot Lunch, a ska band made up of kids from the Cortez High School band that played a few shows in Cortez. Szabo then played with Fowler in The Dugouts before playing with Fuzzy Killing Machine. Yet Szabo has always been a fan of the genre, and the idea of opening for Reel Big Fish is what motivated their formation.

“The idea of doing a ska band came up, and I was thinking it would be cool if we did form a band and opened. One month later, I go up to Dave Thibodeau and told him ‘I’ve got a ska Band, you should let us open for Reel Big Fish,’ and he told me he wanted a local band to do it.”

They then were put on the bill a week before they played their first show.

“We’re trying to pay respect to the history of ska music. When you think of ska music and you’re someone my age, you think about the music from the ’90s,” Szabo said. “Then we started getting into that two-tone vibe, and that made us ask ‘what’s before that?’ and it takes you all the way back to Jamaica once you get down to it.”

The band has recorded an EP’s worth of material, now available on its Soundcloud page.

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