Playing The Headwaters: The River Arkansas
CO Favorite Plays Scarlet on Saturday
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
Did you miss their last Leadville show? I did and after getting the opportunity to hear them in two other venues down in the San Luis Valley, I vowed to not miss their next Leadville show. So when their promo poster popped up in the window at the corner of Harrison and 4th the other day, I stopped into The Scarlet Bar.
“Is The River Arkansas Band really playing here this Saturday?” I asked Shaggy-the-Bartender.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he responded enthusiastically, explaining that he noticed the new poster coming on his shift that day. It seems the booker of music at the corner of bars has started lining up some bands for the rest of the summer season. Nice!
But The River Arkansas? That’s an impressive post-pandemic opening act, as explained in more detail below. In the meanwhile, make plans to catch them live at The Scarlet Bar this Saturday, July 17. Because after that, this band of musicians will be performing at the bluegrass festival in Aspen and then has an August summer tour lined up at some of the top Colorado venues that will likely put them back in that pre-COVID popularity lane that was on hot fire not only across the state but the region. To see them play locally is a treat. The show starts at 10 p.m. which is late for some of you, so take a nap and then grab your dancing shoes. Your Leadville summertime nightlife is waiting to welcome you back!
The Headwaters of The River Arkansas
It’s where it all starts: the headwaters. And for the Arkansas River the genesis of this waterway that spans 1,469 miles, across four states can be found just a few miles north of Leadville Today. The headwaters is where it all begins.
The same can be said about The River Arkansas – the band, that is. Fronted by Pueblo-native Mike Clark, this group is made up of some of the finest musicians on the Colorado front range delivering a mixture of heartfelt country, blues, folk, and Americana, inspired by the Arkansas River. Started in 2014, the group now hosts three successful CDs and an impressive trove of regional venue performances, including Red Rocks.
In fact, their 2019 release of “Any Kind of Weather” had this band on the festival fast-track and prominent on fans’ playlists. Then COVID hit. But perhaps all that shutdown just gave fans more time to listen to their old The River Arkansas favorites and get to know the new ones. And in some ways, audiences may find the group’s music resonates with them even more in a post-pandemic world.
“Good Morning” is the type of redemption song everyone needs right now. Clark’s raspy country vocals bring the promise of a new day, encouraging listeners to: Keep them wings in the air/ don’t despair/You’re gonna make it there/Gonna make it all the way to another day.
And if any small-town economic development strategists need a new theme song for their main street #reboot efforts, then “Meet Me Downtown,” should do the trick. In this catchy tune’s invitation to gather, violinist Rachel Sliker’s prowess rises above, floats across the stage, bringing together old friends at numerous high mountain venues. Her poise and on-stage presence point to the musician’s classically trained roots. And then she plays. Her chops on the violin transcend from symphony stage performance to kickin-up-some-dust bluegrass, prompting swaying and clapping as if fans wish to mimic the down-home Americana flavor her fiddle and soft, melodic vocal harmonies bring every time. Come see what that sounds like at 10,200 feet!
Of course, in a town like Leadville where there’s a bike race nearly every weekend, it would seem remiss if The River Arkansas’ classic “Who Stole My Bike” tune didn’t capture some new Cloud City fans. And anyone who can resist getting out on the dance floor when “Tiny Hurricane,” “All the Way Down,” or “Over The Line” strike up, just forgot how to do it.
Finally, if The River Arkansas was looking for a Leadville Connection, then a close-out favorite “Bury Me (with my piano)” seems fitting in a town where the phrase “Please don’t shoot the piano player..” originated thanks to Oscar Wilde’s visit to Leadville in 1883. Plus, it gives Ben Gallagher a chance to show off his keyboard skills on the same block where the famous saying was coined! Rounding out the stage are upright bassist Macon Terry and drummer Robin Chestnut whose railings tend to keep people moving throughout the night. No matter the playlist or set don’t miss the opportunity to hear The River Arkansas at The Scarlet Bar. It’s time to celebrate! It’s a free show (21+ with ID).
About The Band: The River Arkansas
In the winter of 2014, Mike Clark penned a collection of songs about heartbreak, love, and escaping the clutches of day-to-day society. The following spring, Clark decided to make that collection into a record. By good fortune Macon Terry, a bass player and former member of the band Paper Bird, happened to be in the neighborhood the day the studio was booked for recording. Though Terry arrived not knowing any of the songs, what they captured was the beginning of something great. Later they would add Robin Chestnut on drums, Rachel Sliker on violin, and Benjamin Gallagher on piano. With the release their third studio album “Any Kind of Weather” the band has hit their stride, traveling the mid-west, south, and western United States as well as playing festivals all across Colorado, delivering their distinctive mixture of Country, Blues, Folk and Americana.
Mike Clark is a Calhan, CO native now residing on the banks of the Arkansas River in Pueblo, CO where he is dominating the music scene and has heralded many “Best Of” awards for his uncanny musical abilities. With The River Arkansas, Mike (a self-taught natural) composes, sings, plays guitar, banjo, and harmonica. In other musical endeavors, The haunted Wind Chimes and Sugar Sounds, Mike has been known to play mandolin, violin, and piano. Mike brings a strong sense of cohesiveness to the band when writing new tunes by creating parts that are well thought out for each member and their individual talents.
Rachel is also a Colorado native hailing from Colorado Springs and now resides in Boulder. Rachel trained classically on violin from ages 5 to 22 and her chops on the violin transcend from symphony stage performance to bluegrass festivals. With The River Arkansas, Rachel brings the down-home Americana flavor with her fiddle and soft, melodic vocal harmonies. On occasion Rachel switches out the violin for guitar for when the element of rock is needed. Rachel plays another essential role in the band as “The Food Boss”, keeping the group well sated as band chef.
Macon grew up in the big ol’ mess of Houston, TX and moved to Boulder, CO to study Environmental Design. After living along Colorado’s front range for over a decade he traded in the busy city life for a calm existence in the San Luis Valley. Macon started playing guitar and electric bass soon after going to see Guns n’ Roses and Sound Garden at the age of 11. Prior to playing music Macon was a professional ventriloquist and puppeteer from the age of 8 to 14. He began playing upright bass when he was 24, and it has been his primary instrument ever since. The thing Macon is most proud of: praying consistently for three years, out loud to God for a baby sister until his dad got a reversal vasectomy, and thus Macon became a big brother!
The River Arkansas Video: All The Way Down
Robin Chestnut is originally from Mountainview, CA and now calls Boulder, CO his home. Robin is a Stanford Band Camp alum from 7th and 8th grades where he performed the trumpet. Since then, Robin has mastered the drums and now lays it down for The River Arkansas. Not only is Robin a bad-ass percussionist, he also is quite the numeric genius that has a PhD in math from CU Boulder. One would never find Robin lounging around staring at a phone as he has never owned a phone (or a car) and has never indulged in using social media. Instead, Robin can usually be found squatting somewhere reading a book and enjoying a cup of coffee.
Ben hails from the burbs of Chicago and now calls Trinidad, CO his home. Ben has been playing piano since his youth, mostly self-taught in his adult life. He has sought explorations in a wide range of genres from folk, honky-tonk, country to progressive rock, jazz, experimental improvisation, and theatrical sound design. As a songwriter, composer, and sideman, Ben has been playing music in Colorado for over 15 years.
Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company located in Leadville, Colorado that publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Lead Vegas Saturday Night!
Up the Avenue a few blocks is the other #cornerbar in Leadville Today. . . . Saturday nights have been revived in downtown Lead Vegas with the return of regular live music on the corner of 7th and historic Harrison Avenue. Whether it’s Open Mic or Karaoke (this weekend!), come and hear your favorite Leadville Idol belt out the tunes at the legendary Manhattan Bar. Yep, the neon light is still glowing and the crowds are growing as Jasmin-the-Bartender serves up the drinks during this regular Saturday night event, with the programs rotate every other week. This Saturday, July 17 it’s Karaoke! Oh boy!