Festival growing despite humble roots
NEW CASTLE, Colorado About five years ago, Chris Davis, an insurance agent from Edwards, got together with a few friends on a gorgeous ranch in New Castle. Davis, who was a huge fan of Leftover Salmon, and before that the Grateful Dead, was a music fanatic, so there were some tunes provided. Just not on a very large scale.We started with a farm, a fire pit, some barbecue and one guitar, said Davis. And we made a weekend of it. It was 25 people. Then the next year, it was 50 people and two guitars.This is probably not the way the Bonnaroo Festival started. But Davis gathering has mushroomed into a festival of its own: the Realm of Music, held on that same piece of land. After two small-scale efforts, the event enters into a new realm this year. Over three days, this Friday through Sunday, that 230-acre parcel known as the Dix Ranch will play host to a lineup which includes New Orleans icons the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Boulder rock trio Rose Hill Drive, Southern swamp-rock band JJ Grey & Mofro, and, to the delight of David, former Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, who will play in a group with bassist Oteil Burbridge, of the Allman Brothers Band, and Col. Bruce Hampton, leader of the Aquarium Rescue Unit. (That group will be rounded out by a mystery guitarist whom David refuses to identify.)Also on the bill are Great American Taxi, the latest project fronted by Leftover Salmons Vince Herman; DJ Logic; Aspenites the Butchers; Grateful Dead tribute band Shakedown Street; and Vail funk band, Little Hercules.The way Davis describes it, the growth of a little barbecue into a respectable regional music festival could not have been more organic. The early participants simply pooled their skills, took on a responsibility, and put out the word to friends.It became, I know this person. I can book this talent, said the 36-year-old Davis. And it tumbleweeded from there. The bonfire guy became the Port-a-Potty guy. And this guy became the trash removal guy. And one guy was the beer distributor. Everybody volunteered; there was no money involved at all.If David has his pick of jobs, it probably would have been bootleg taper. He came with the experience. David spent years following the Dead around, recording equipment in tow. When the Dead went down, he jumped to the Leftover Salmon camp. A good friend of his was Leftovers tour manager, so Davis got a close-up view of what it was to organize concerts, including the big-scale Salmonfest events in Lyons, and in Lesterville, Miss.I guess I was an apprentice, watching from the sidelines, watching it all go down, he said. And when I saw this opportunity, to do this on a farm in New Castle, I went for it.Along with owning Alpine Insurance, with offices in Edwards and Frisco, Davis also got into the concert business on a professional level. He became tour manager for Little Hercules, and the gig paid big dividends when Davis brought the group to Hawaii for a tour in May of 2007.Halfway through the tour, this guy taps me on the shoulder and asks if he can sit in with the drummer. It was this old, salty, fisherman guy, recalled Davis. I told him to wait till after the set-break. Another guy said, You know thats Billy Kreutzmann? I dropped dead. He was my hero.Kreutzmann ended up following the entourage to several more gigs, an experience that Davis says brought the drummer out of semi-retirement and into semi-unretirement. A friendship was struck. When Davis mentioned the growing gathering he was doing in New Castle each September, Kreutzmann encouraged him to turn it into a genuine festival.Davis believes his greatest talent is in team-building, and for an upstart festival 10 miles outside of Glenwood Springs, he has assembled an impressive crew, dubbed the Knights of the Round Table. His sound engineer, for example, is the house soundman at Red Rocks.Davis also brings a vision and philosophy to the Realm of Music. The festival is designed as a fundraiser, with net proceeds going to the Realm of Caring, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing musical education to children in Eagle and Garfield Counties. Last years festival, held in September, was marred by bad weather, and the mission to build a musical kids park, with chimes and bells went unfulfilled. Davis is undeterred, and this year the money is going into a general fund to provide musical opportunities for children.The ultimate goal, on the horizon, would be a music education facility, he said. With the Leave No Child Behind act, what Ive seen is music education is disappearing.The more immediate goal is to create an after-school music program for kids like Davis own 4-year-old, Avery.For her not to experience musical education, that would be a shame, he said.For a full schedule of events, pricing and directions, visit http://www.therealmofmusic.com
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