Josh Behrman makes the western Colorado mountains groove
Josh Behrman would love to see another Howling Wolf.
No, the venerable western Colorado music producer and principal of Mountain Groove Productions isn’t an advocate for wolf reintroduction, he’s an advocate for venues like the former Howling Wolf Café in Aspen.
Before closing its doors in 2003, the Howling Wolf was just the type of venue where local musicians could gather and perform together in groups.
“It was great! That was where every local musician had a home at that time,” he said. “I would love to see that come back.”
The Roaring Fork Valley is still home to an abundance of musical talent, Behrman said, but unfortunately not many venues can support them.
“There’s an après scene, but that’s not really what local musicians want to be doing,” Behrman said.
“I think it’s great to have the new addition of the Temporary, and I know they’re supporting some of the local scene,” he said of the popular new Basalt venue at Willits. “But if you think about it, where can local musicians play? We don’t have an old-school coffeehouse here. If you want to go out and just listen to music and hang out, and not pay an exorbitant amount of money to get in, there’s really very little support for that.”
Behrman has lived in the Valley for 25 years, and his introduction to this place is a familiar tale. He rode out from his hometown of New York City with a childhood friend who was moving to Aspen and who promised him a one-way ticket to anywhere after he helped unload the moving van.
“I did that and just fell in love,” he said. “Two days became two weeks, two weeks became two months, and two months became 20-something years. I started meeting people and made good friendships.”
He found work in the sales department at KSPN radio and eventually became general manager of the radio group that included KSPN, KNFO and KSNO.
“I loved two things, sports and music, and at the time KSPN was music and KNFO was sports,” he said.
In 2011, Behrman opened the PAC3, a 360-seat venue inside Carbondale’s Third Street Center where he booked such internationally famous artists as Bruce Cockburn, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Bush, Del McCoury, The Wailers and The Motet. But the venture failed after only a couple of years.
“It wasn’t sustainable, and Carbondale didn’t support it,” Behrman said. “The thing is, it’s easy to do a small venue, but that was a [large] venue, and to fill it was challenging.
“It’s also hard to get people out on weeknights. Carbondale isn’t a tourist town and a lot of people have to work. A lot of the bands that we could get for the price we could afford would come on weeknights.”
Over the years, Behrman has earned his reputation as the valley’s music and festivals man. He books national and international touring musicians into the Ute Theater and Events Center in Rifle, books shows at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, and he recently began booking shows at The Collective, a new venue in Snowmass.
In addition, Behrman is in his 11th year of co-producing the Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival along with Amy Kimberly of Carbondale Arts, and he also produces the Mountain Harvest Festival in Paonia.
A big part of Behrman’s job as a music producer is dealing with touring artists and their managers, which he said is a mixed bag — some are easy and some are more difficult.
“What I’ve found is if they have a good tour manager, things go really well,” he said. “But if they have a tour manager who’s young and green and wants to make an impression on the band, it’s not so good.”
“Depending on the act, I may have very little interaction with the main artist, which is good,” he said. “You don’t want too much interaction because the artist is an artist — they shouldn’t be involved in the logistics.”
rifle’s ute coming of age
Behrman said he loves booking artists into Rifle’s Ute Theater and Events Center, a venue that he said is “always improving.”
“They have great support from the nonprofit organization called N.U.T.S., (New Ute Theater Society),” he said. “These girls are working hard at raising money, and with that money there’s always improvements being made to the lights and sound.”
He also enjoys working with theater manager Wayne Pleasants, who Behrman said knows his way around the building’s technical equipment.
“It’s great to have a manager who’s techy and understands it and can connect the dots,” Behrman said.
The Ute draws patrons from Aspen to Grand Junction, and from as far away as Utah and Wisconsin, Behrman said. But the bulk of its concert crowds come from Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Grand Junction.
“I urge [the Post Independent] readership to support it as well,” he said. “That’s the thing — if you don’t support the venues, they will go away.”
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