Traffic jamming: Elk Range band serenades Glenwood Canyon |

Traffic jamming: Elk Range band serenades Glenwood Canyon

Elk Range. From left to right; Ken Gentry, Hugh Phillips, Curtis Fiore, Betty Hoops.
Courtesy photo from Elk Range band

Some people have a gift for making the best of a situation.

For the band Elk Range, they found a way to make light of a recent Glenwood Canyon closure by bringing people together with a little music to pass the time. 

Or as the harmonica player Betty Hoops would put it, the band brought new meaning to the term traffic jam — after they jammed in traffic. 

“It’s so wonderful to make friends out of strangers, whether it’s a stressful circumstance like we were in, or a beautiful circumstance like playing a show and having people dance and put their feet in the grass,” Hoops said. 

Whichever circumstance it is, Hoops said the band just loves being part of and building community. 

“The idea to get out was all Betty’s,” Elk Range’s singer/songwriter Ken Gentry said. “How many bands have been able to play in the middle of Glenwood Canyon?”

Gentry said the band was heading back from playing in Keystone after the Keystone Winter Bluegrass Weekend on Jan. 28. They left a little late, in hopes of missing some of the traffic in the other mountain towns, just to make it in perfect timing for a canyon closure. 

They got the alert that the canyon was closing right around the time they were arriving there, so they knew they would be stuck there for a while, Hoops said. 

Everyone except the guitarist, Curtis Fiore, was on the tour bus, including the stand-up bassist Hugh Phillips, so they thought, why not?

Hoops does a lot of the publicity work for the band. She joked that she is always trying to get them to document things, and this one paid off. 

A still photo taken from YouTube of Carbondale-based band Elk Range playing an impromptu concert during a recent closure in Glenwood Canyon.

Making the best of the closure not only benefited the situation and the people there, but it brought statewide recognition to the band, which extended that happiness and community to others in the state. 

“It’s definitely been snowballing,” Hoops said. 

Gentry said that one of the best gifts that he received from the video of the band playing in the canyon going viral was a woman who wrote them to tell them that years ago she got stuck in the canyon, and while she was waiting she spread her husband’s ashes right about where the band was playing. 

“She said she partied a little and dumped his ashes,” Gentry said. “She thanked us for taking music to him because he was a hell of a dance partner.”

The time on the closed portion of Interstate 70 became its own little party. A family from New Zealand enjoyed an impromptu dance party with the band. A younger man with a cooler of beer was handing the beers out to people who weren’t driving. Hoops said it felt like a little tailgating party for a short while. 

With the snowballing recognition, the band decided to make some hats to commemorate the experience. They called up a local screen printing company, Ink Swell Printing, and had the hats made immediately, saying Traffic Jam ‘23. 

The hats can still be purchased on the website for a limited time. 

If you want to catch the band in or around town, Ken Gentry plays as a soloist often throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, and the band plays the Tipsy Trout in Basalt once a month. Their next show at the Tipsy Trout will be on Feb. 18, and Palisade Bluegrass Bash in April. 

They played Mountain Fair last summer, and they love playing everywhere along the Western Slope.

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