Ute Event Center continues to attract talent despite changes
Ute Event Center is in search of new leadership, but that hasn’t stopped the Rifle venue from offering a wide array of events.
“It’s been a real centerpiece for the community,” said Parks and Recreation director Tom Whitmore. “People love the venue. I’ve had a lot of calls from promoters representing bands that want to play.”
Parks and Rec has been running the show since Ute manager Don Chaney took a full-time job with radio station KMTS in August.
An interim manager is just taking the reigns to bridge the gap until a permanent replacement can be found.
“We’d like to get someone chosen before the holidays start,” Whitmore said.
The venue, which is located at 132 E. Fourth St., will be closed in January to install new seating.
In the meantime, the Ute will host western songwriting legend Michael Martin Murphey at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22.
Tickets are $35 and available at City Market in Rifle, New Castle and Glenwood Springs, by phone at 970-243-8497 and http://www.ticketswest.com. The show, along with Kathy Mattea’s “Acoustic Living Room” in November, is sponsored by KMTS.
Murphey is best known for ’70s hits like “Wildfire”, “Carolina in the Pines” and “Geronimo’s Cadillac.” Despite their country feel, they mostly appeared on the pop charts.
“If you didn’t kiss the hands and feet of the Grand Ole Opry and music row in those days, you just didn’t get on country radio,” Murphey said. “I didn’t switch over to country until after something like eight or nine albums.”
“The bottom line is I’m a songwriter, and songwriters like to dabble in lots of different genres,” he added. “All the songs I recorded on my first album were songs nobody had ever accepted. They were too personal.”
Murphey is no stranger to Rifle, having put on his West Fest there several years ago.
“I love Rifle. It’s got a great name,” he said. “I love to be around small town people. That’s the culture that I relate to.”
The Ute is part of a tour of smaller venues that eschews the full band for a more intimate review of a decades-long career.
“The first half of the show is a retrospective of my better-known songs and songs I just like to sing,” Murphey said. “The second half is all cowboy music. My most famous song, ‘Wildfire,’ I always do last.”
While the big acts help put the Ute on the map, there are plenty of other public and private events going on throughout the year.
Many of them are made possible by the New Ute Theater Society, the center’s nonprofit wing, which offers annual memberships from $20 to $10,000.
“Our vision was always multi use, and it’s turning out that way,” said treasurer Tanya Giard. “These memberships keep the local, free events happening.”
For more information or to donate, visit utetheater.com.
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