The Henry Strater Theatre, affectionately known these days as “The Hank,” has been a fixture of the downtown entertainment scene, but never to the point where it has gained a following of regulars, save for a band or two.
It remains a primary venue for the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, its summers are busy with the Melodrama, and this week it is hosting the annual Snowdown Follies. Aside from those and a few other annual events, The Hank’s concert schedule averages about one show a month, if that.
Perhaps that will change with a need for a place to host the growing number of shows around town. It’s a great spot; its huge backstage can accommodate large bands, and along with its dance floor, tiered and “Muppet Show”–like box seating, it’s ideal for dancers and wallflowers.
The Hank will be used Thursday, when Austin-roots folkie Garrett Lebeau will play a benefit for the San Juan Citizens Alliance and La Plata Open Space Conservancy. Joining Lebeau in his band are Matt Hubbard on keyboards, Brad Houser on bass and Michael Christmas on drums. Opening the show will be Bonnie Bishop.
Bishop is based in Nashville. She last played here in the summer, when she performed as part of the Community Concert Hall’s Thursday night series in Buckley Park.
Lebeau’s career is off to a quick start. He recently signed to Jimmy Lafave’s “Music Road Records” and is quickly gaining the attention of the heavy-hitting songwriter and musician community around Austin. He’s fresh out of the studio, and his next release, “Rise to the Grind,” is due out in May. It’s everything he had hoped for, and he’s proud of the result.
“The whole vibe was great,” Lebeau said. “A lot of the studio experience nowadays is kind of like a nine-to-five deal. This was not like that. We went in late in the day and worked late into the night. It was the experience I’ve been looking to have in the studio for many years. It’s been a long road to get here and this record is great,”
He’s a tough one to pigeonhole, admitting that describing your sound is about as easy as admitting your weaknesses in a job interview. Genre names are thrown around; ideas from the past are borrowed and built upon to either call things rhythm and blues or a throwback to soul. Lebeau may throw around some of those terms, too, but in the end he is happy with a sound that he has worked on developing.
“People will reference Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Boz Scaggs and Doctor John,” Lebeau said. “But I really don’t think I sound anything like that. But it’s got elements. There’s a slight bit of folky Americana to certain tunes. But then there’s this funk thing. All I know is it sounds like me at the end of the day, and that’s what you try to do as an artist.”
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.