The Blue Canyon Boys will be back in Labadie for a concert this Saturday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. at Labadie Station. Gates will open at 5 p.m. and people can bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs, coolers and bug spray to have a picnic before the show.
Band leader Jason Hicks is a Labadie native, which helps draw crowds of 400 plus bluegrass fans to the intimate outdoor venue.
Hicks, son of Debbie Wagonseller and the late David Hicks, has been based in Colorado for many years. His band, The Blue Canyon Boys, have been performing together since 2005.
First-place winners of the 2008 Telluride band contest, the Boys have released five amazing CDs, and have a sixth in the works. When not working as a master cabinetmaker, Jason tours America’s Western states from as far south as Yuma, Ariz., all the way to the top and even into Canada.
The boys have received acclaim everywhere they go, and have even played internationally at the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.
Currents Online Arts & Entertainment Editor Ethan Busse talked with Jason Hicks of the Blue Canyon Boys about the upcoming show. Following are the highlights of that interview:
EB: So what’s new with you guys? Last time I talked to you, you were out supporting your new album.
JH: Yes, we did that all last year. We’ve been working on another new album this year, and we’re getting closer to that being done. It’ll be done this winter some time. We haven’t set a title or anything like that yet. I can’t let those kinds of things out, but um, we have some really cool, fun songs.
I mean we’re doing a little bit different stuff than we have done in the past, um, a couple things that will look more groove-oriented, a lot of vocal stuff, and yeah, I’m really excited about the new album, getting it done, and getting it out there.
EB: Excellent. Are you guys going to be covering all of the new album tunes while you’re in Labadie?
JH: We’ll be doing some of them, not all of them. There’s a number of them that we haven’t played live yet, so there’ll be a song that we’ll start playing live about the time that the album is coming out and some we’ve been playing for a year or two that we decided to record and, yeah, a good mixture.
More than half of it is our original stuff and a few select covers from kind of a broad spectrum, everything from straight Bill Monroe to Pink Floyd. We’re doing some cool stuff on this album.
EB: So can we expect to hear some Pink Floyd while you’re in Labadie, too?
JH: Yeah! We will more than likely play a Pink Floyd song that evening, the one that we’ve been working on, and it’s a blast to play, it’s a blast to sing. It almost always goes over great.
Sometimes people don’t really know what it is until they come and talk to us after the show, because it’s in a different context. We were playing up in Nebraska this spring, and it was a pretty conservative and older crowd . . . and our last set, we did a Pink Floyd song and we did a song by Cheap Trick and we did a version of some that the Grateful Dead did. And afterward, this guy came up to us and said, “So you mean to tell me you got all these old people to give you a standing ovation and an encore after playing songs by Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead?” And I said, “You know, I guess so.” I wouldn’t have thought it myself, but . . .
EB: That’s pretty awesome. Yeah, you put it in a different context, and most of them probably don’t even realize it.
JH: Yeah, some people, obviously know it right off the bat, once you start singing. Some people hear the words and they know right what it is. Some people, you know, it’s a little bit faster than the original, and um, a different kind of a context and so some people, it just doesn’t register what it is because of the context of what they know it in, and some people are singing along and, it’s pretty fun.
You never know how people are going to react to stuff like that, but, and then it stops kind of abruptly and people don’t know how to react to that either, because they’re not sure if you’re really done or not.
EB: Yeah, so there’s a pause before any applause.
JH: Yeah there’s this awkward silence where people are like, “What am I supposed to do now?” And then, you know, people that know the song, they usually jump in right away with applause. It’s fun to do stuff like that.
EB: Very cool. Keep them guessing.
JH: We’ll be doing that one Saturday night . . . This is actually our fourth annual show we’ve done at Labadie Station . . . so every year has been getting more and more fun.
EB: That’s really awesome.
JH: We’re looking forward to it.
EB: And last year, you guys had a really big draw, like over 400?
JH: Yeah, there was over 400 people there last year, maybe 450, I don’t remember what the official count was. We had a bit of a scare because, you know, I live in Lyons, and we had the 500-year flood come and it devastated a good part of the town, and you know, my house was also affected, you know. We couldn’t get out of town, we didn’t know if we could have the show, being that there was no electricity or cell service, we couldn’t communicate out to anybody either, so it was kind of tricky, we just didn’t know what was going to happen.
We were able to finally get out and we just took a chance and went straight to the airport. For my family and myself, the family, they weren’t really effected by it, they weren’t really flooded. But I was stranded in my town. I couldn’t get out. But, we got out and we flew in, actually, late Friday night.
On another note, this weekend, we’re playing at the St. Louis Folk and Roots Festival at The Sheldon on Friday evening, and we’re playing Labadie on Saturday evening, but this will be the last official weekend of our banjo player, Chris Elliot, playing with us. He’s moving on and doing some of his own personal projects. So this will kind of be his send-off.
But, we’re all great friends and leaving on great terms and we have a new banjo player coming in, and he’s already started playing with us a little bit. And Chris, I’m sure, will continue to fill in on some gigs here and there. He’s such a great banjo player and musician and really fun to be in a band with. But he’s moving on and ready to do some things that are, kind of more in line of the things that he wants to work on, and we understand that. We all have our creative urges that we have to get out some way or another.
EB: That’s right. Well, you answered part of my next question about any changes in the band.
JH: That’s the big change, he’s on our new CD, he’ll stop playing with us full time by the time the new CD comes out. We’re doing one of his banjo tunes he wrote, a really pretty song called “The Road to Westcliff.” It’s great, we’re looking forward to playing with him this weekend, and he’s such a cool guy.
Our new banjo player, Ernie Martinez, who’s kind of the Denver go-to-guy, he’s been in tons of bands, he plays all the instruments, and plays them proficiently, as well as being a great singer. We’re really looking forward to him coming onboard with us, and excited about the new possibilities.
Along with banjo he plays mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, dobro, pedal steel and drums. He plays the whole range. It can open up some really cool new possibilities for us, and that’s always an exciting adventure moving forward.
He actually laid some pedal steel guitar tracks on our new album this last weekend. He gets nominated pretty much every year for musician of the year in the Western Music Association, and has won some of those.
He’s known in the western cowboy music world. When all the big folkies come to town and play the big Denver places he gets a call and is asked to come play. The big names come out here, and he plays with all of them. We’ve been practicing with him and he picks things up really quick. He’s been our fill-in guy in the past when someone is sick.
EB: What’s the most fun, interesting, or strangest event you guys have played this year?
JH: We played a lot of festivals, we’ve been in Colorado a bit more this year than last summer than last year. I don’t think we’ve had a certain thing that’s been more fun, all the gigs have been fun, we’ve been in Wyoming a few times, New Mexico, California and Nebraska, all around the western United States.
We’re heading to Oregon in the next couple of weeks. We played down in Yuma, Ariz., on the border of Arizona, California and Mexico, and you walk over an imaginary line and the time on your phone changes, and you can take a five-minute drive, and you’re in Mexico, so that was a fun, little festival just because of its interesting location.
It’s fun to get out there and go play places that you wouldn’t necessarily go to on your own and see different parts of the world that are a little more out of the way, especially as bluegrass musicians, unlike a big country or rock band that tends to hit the major cities and we get to hit a lot of the smaller towns, places the size of Washington.
EB: You guys get to see real Americana.
JH: We really do, it’s amazing, we played up in Twin Falls, Idaho, last winter and there is this big canyon, and these twin water falls that you don’t even know are there, since it’s nothing we learned about in school. Just gorgeous. But like when we come to St. Louis we get to go to the City Museum, which is such a cool thing to check out, and being up in Canada and going to the largest indoor roller coaster.
We stopped at this place in Hatch, N.M., last year, and this little restaurant had THE BEST burger I’ve ever had, and you start looking around, and they have these life-sized replicas of tigers, and Col. Sanders is sitting on a bench outside the restaurant, and you walk in and there’s this Darth Vader mermaid hanging from the ceiling. Just stuff like that, a part of America, you know this stuff’s out there, but you never really get to see it.
Or driving through small towns and finding UFO-themed motels and weird museums. Just little things that you don’t really think about, but that are really cool and fun experiences.
EB: That has to be a really rewarding part of it.
JH: Oh, yeah, last summer we played a wedding up in Wyoming in the middle of nowhere. We drove from Casper for over an hour down this little windy gravel road for miles and miles, into the mountains, and we finally get to this little off the grid solar cabin that somebody discovered and had a wedding there.
At night on the way back, it was like 11 p.m., and we just stopped in the middle of the road and got out, and I’ve never seen such crystalness of the stars and the Milky Way as we did there, there was no moon so it was just really bright, various falling stars. Just gorgeous, and we would have never been there had we not been playing music somewhere.
It’s one of the really cool advantages of being a musician, that we get to travel, and we get paid to do this too! It’s just a really wonderful experience to have.
EB: Is there anything you want to say to your home town before the show?
JH: I’m looking forward to coming back to the home town and playing for everybody, and I know in the past there have been a lot of people that come that we know, after the show please come up and say hi.
After the show I don’t always get to go out and say hi to all the friends and family, so please come up and say hi, we’d love to chat. It’s going to be a fun time, we’ll play some music for ya, bring the kids and hang out and have a great night!
Tickets are available at Labadie Station, 128 Front St., Labadie.