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Spend a Winter’s Night with DeVotchKa

The state of Colorado can hang its hat on being purveyors of “the Denver Sound.” An indie-rock subgenre that flies below the radar, it’s a scene obscure enough to remain overlooked and even ignored by most casual music fans while being known internationally to those with an ear tilted toward the left-side of the radio dial.

It’s a haunting and howling sound with hints of old-school country without the twang, and punk without the speed, gritty and lo-fi roots and folk music with a dash of the goth and a handful of rough-around-the-edges psychedelia. Its key players have all called Denver home – bands like The Denver Gentlemen and Sixteen Horsepower, Wovenhand, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and DeVotchKa.

A bit of the Denver Sound will come to Durango on Tuesday, when DeVotchKa performs at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.

Rural areas outside Denver may have lived on a soundtrack of old-country, while the city had a small punk scene. Members of the aforementioned bands were digging on the best of both of those worlds when coming of age, and the Mile High City was the perfect breeding ground for the development of their sounds and the creation of their art.

“We certainly got together in Denver, and we slummed around the same clubs as all those bands,” said Nick Urata, DeVotchKa vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. “So I think it was maybe something in the atmosphere, in the water, definitely in the zeitgeist of young musicians looking for something, something new to try, and a new way of expressing themselves. We kind of came out of that group, and Denver was an exciting, very strange, old city that I think had a lot to do with a lot of the formation.”

If you go

WHAT: A Winter’s Night with DeVotchKa.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive.

TICKETS: $27-$40. Available online at https://bit.ly/3dTXvvq.

MORE INFORMATION: Call 247-7657 or visit www.durangoconcerts.com.

DeVotchKa has grown out of being a club band. They gained some large-scale recognition after providing the majority of tunes for the Oscar Award winning film “Little Miss Sunshine,” while attracting larger audiences for performances at Red Rocks where they’ve been backed by The Colorado Symphony. They dig on themed shows, this year, however, will be the first time they’ve played a Christmas performance.

“We play a lot of holidays, its kind of part of our yearly thing,” Urata said. “We do a Halloween show every year that’s pretty expansive, we usually play New Years, but we’ve never gotten to do a Christmas-themed show, so that’s why we’re doing this one.”

Most of us are now more than familiar with the canon of holiday tunes, and most artists have dropped a holiday tune or two throughout their career. While Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” remains the most familiar and Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas remains the hippiest, rock fans may favor some of the holiday tunes that dropped in the last 40 years over the ones written before World War II. The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” is now a forever, tear-jerking classic, The Kinks’ “Father Christmas” will always be a ripper, and Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” is just flat out wonderful. There are so many more you likely haven’t heard.

A Winters Night with DeVotchKa will likely dip into some of the familiar classics while also pulling a bit of the obscure out of their back pockets, while also digging into their regular, non-holiday-themed catalog.

“It’s theme with quotation marks. We just wanted to learn and perform some Christmas songs that we like. We won’t have the symphony orchestra with us in Durango, but we are bringing some of the songs that we’ve been working on, and its Christmas,” Urata said. “It’s a little more obscure, there’s a couple that are right on the nose, and a couple that hopefully people haven’t heard in a while.”

Yes, Virginia, good concerts do come to Durango.

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