By Jeffrey V. Smith
Thanks to a dedicated group of music-loving volunteers, truly intimate performances from some of the world’s top acoustic talent take place in Lyons for several months during winter. The town is familiar with local concerts from world-class performers thanks to the annual RockyGrass and Folks Festival events, but shows produced by High Street Concerts at Rogers Hall are different. With only 100 seats and “fabulous” sound, everyone can enjoy an intimate experience with top acoustic artists.
The volunteer-run, non-profit concert series was founded in July 2003 with a mission to present national and local acoustic and Americana acts in an intimate community setting. It was a natural fit. Executive Director Annie Sirotniak explained, High Street Concerts was started in July 2003 by Lyons residents KC Groves, Sam Tallent, proprietor of the Stone Cup Café, and Mike Whipp. The trio “got the ball running” at the Old Stone Church with a show featuring Mollie O’Brien. “Lyons is a tightly knit community filled with accomplished musicians and lovers of acoustic music,” she said. “We’re home to the world-class music festivals held at Planet Bluegrass. I think there’s something about our setting—the red cliffs and the river—that inspires music, art, creativity and soul.”
A few weeks later during RockyGrass, Groves rallied her friends—including Sirotniak—to help out with a show featuring her musical friends Matt Flinner, Greg Garrison, Ross Martin and Darol Anger. “It was great seeing everyone up close and personal in a small setting where you could hear every note, she said. “From then on, I was part of the volunteer crew. It was fun for me because, as a mandolin player, I got to know my musical heroes.”
Sirotniak—a physical therapist, business owner and former professional bike racer—is still a volunteer despite taking on much more responsibility. “I book the bands, do the marketing, update our website, ticket sales, organize the volunteers and emcee the shows. It’s also a lot of time, but it’s so worth it when we have a sold-out show with world-class music; it’s magical.”
Within a year, Lyons resident Brian Eyster “did the lion’s share of the groundwork, and became the director of High Street Concerts,” according to Sirotniak. He got a website up, organized a group mailing list and established processes. “When I moved to Lyons from Boulder in 2007, Brian had moved on to full time work at Planet Bluegrass and asked me to take over as director. I’d been a volunteer since the beginning, and started emceeing the shows in our second year, and so it was a good fit.”
High Street Concerts books mostly bluegrass music with occasional old-time, Celtic and Americana acts. “We like to share the love and have bands rather than solo artists, as we currently put on four to six shows a year,” Sirotniak said. “We love bluegrass and that’s what our audience has come to expect. We strive to bring nationally touring artists as they come through Colorado, and we also feature the best regional bands.”
Other than the sound engineer and poster artist, everyone is a volunteer. Volunteers bake goods to sell, and come early to set up the stage and venue then stay late to break down and clean up. “We’re a tight knit family, and our volunteers all commit to doing most shows each season,” Sirotniak explained. “There’s a ton of work that goes into putting on a show, and after all our costs are netted out—venue and sound rental, food, program and poster printing—we give the rest to the artists. We volunteer our time so that we can be generous with our support to the artists. As a performing musician myself, I know that artists appreciate this.”
All High Street Concerts shows are held in Rogers Hall, which is fairly small. There is seating for about 100 people, and most shows sell out. “The sound is fabulous,” Sirotniak said, “in large part because we have a listening audience and folks don’t chatter during the shows. It’s different than going to a bar seeing a band, where you might hear three conversations going on while trying to listen to the music. Some of our high school volunteers actually started a sound company—Red Wolf Sound—from their experience volunteering at High Street Concerts.”
Since the events sell out, it’s obvious live music fans appreciate the concerts, but the town and its businesses do too. Lyons sponsors include The Stone Cup, Oskar Blues Grill & Brew and Pizza Bar 66. Cash and product sponsorship from Airshow Mastering and Swingfingers Recording Studio also help keep the series going.
Sirotniak is “looking forward to every concert” this season. The first show features Take Down The Door, an Irish traditional band featuring husband and wife team of Eric Thorin on bass and Jessie Burns on fiddle, with Lyons resident Beth Gadbaw on vocals and drum. Jon Sousa and Adam Agee, a powerful duo, are also part of the band. “I’m thrilled that we’ll hear the sweet sounds of Monica Whittington and Eric Wiggs opening the show as Honeytree,” she added.
On Valentine’s Day, two “amazing” Western swing bands—Katie Glassman & Snapshot and Swingchicks—are featured. In March, HSC welcomes JUNO Award-winning artist Jayme Stone and the Lomax Project, which focuses on songs collected by folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax. The season finale features former Lyons resident Danny Shafer and Finnders & Youngberg.
Rogers Hall is located at the intersection of 4th and High streets in Lyons. Tickets to HSC performances go on sale a month before each show at the Stone Cup and online at http://www.highstreetconcerts.com. Doors open at 7 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m. for all shows. Seating is general admission. It is recommended you arrive at least 30 minutes before show time for the best seating. For more info email Info@HighStreetConcerts.com or call 303-823-6433.
‘Foot-stomping’ Celtic band ready for an Irish party
The Irish once were known to take the doors off the hinges when it was time for a party. Now inspiring the modern Celtic world to do the same is Take Down the Door, a new band with members from Lyons and Boulder. The “premium grade Irish music” group performs, Jan. 10, at Rogers Hall as the first of High Street Concerts’ 12th season of shows.
The band’s foot-stomping, heart-stopping, wide-open sound reflects the band’s name and home towns. Fiddler Jessie Burns toured for six years and recorded three number-one world albums with Celtic supergroup Gaelic Storm. Adam Agee and Jon Sousa have been called “sincere and from the heart.” Described by Irish Music Magazine as “exceptional,” singer Beth Leachman Gadbaw made her mark with traditional group Siucra. Bassist Eric Thorin currently tours with the Matt Flinner Trio, Mollie O’Brien and Jeff Austin Band.
With stellar musicianship from all its mebers, Take Down the Door plays a variety of dance tunes and Irish songs. With an impressively high-energy traditional sound that is guaranteed to make you want to join in the fun, Take Down the Door is ready to get the party started.
Honeytree, a soulful collaboration between Monocle Band’s Monica Whittington and Eric Wiggs, opens the show.
Both articles originally published in the January 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly