“I headed west to grow up with the country,” sang Gram Parsons in his song “Return of the Grievous Angel,” a cult-classic recorded in 1973. The concept comes from the phrase “go west, young man,” based on the concept of Manifest Destiny and America’s expansion westward.
The regional bands of Sunday’s Out West Fest—Birdhunter, Patrick Chadwick, Screen Door Porch, and organizers Canyon Kids—know the feeling of chasing dreams westward. From nearly top to bottom, the bill is full of musicians that journeyed west in their early twenties to find opportunity and access to the mountains they’d dreamed of. The music followed. The brainchild of duo-led Canyon Kids, the fest signals another Rocky Mountain summer in the books, yet brings together four acts that are forging paths of their own in a rural pocket of the country.
"I first headed West to check out America and our National Parks...explore and adventure and have opportunities to do exactly what I want with my time," said Canyon Kids vocalist/rhythm guitarist Bo Elledge. "I had spent time in other gorgeous places doing seasonal work but this place has more sense of community and a welcoming music scene."
What sets these acts apart and what ties them together is the emphasis on creating a sound of their own through song craft, and interacting with piers that share a similar zest for the mountain-musician lifestyle. The fest was inspired in part by the WYOmericana Caravan Tour, which Screen Door Porch and Canyon Kids linked up for in 2015. Collaborative encores and cross-band collaborations were a staple of the tour, and Out West Fest embodies this tradition that often produces moments that could never be rehearsed, nor replicated.
Pinedale duo Birdhunter opens the show. Samantha Rise (vocals, ukulele) and Ryan Ptasnik (drums, keyboard bass) have a refreshing sound meshing jazz, folk, soul and early blues sensibilities. Patrick Chadwick has had a prolific run as of late, releasing his terrific Soul of Mine EP earlier this year as well as a collaborative EP with Victor Pokorny, Stay! Positive!, which was released digitally on iTunes etc. just last week. Roots-rock/Americana band Screen Door Porch will stage a quintet after a run of festivals and before entering the studio to record a fourth album. Canyon Kids will close the day with their six-piece version of the band, which often nudges subtle acoustic moments to a rockin’ bang. Last year’s release Best Loved Poems of the American People was one of my favorite albums of 2015.
Out West Fest featuring Canyon Kids, Screen Door Porch, Patrick Chadwick, and Birdhunter, 5 p.m. at Village Commons. Free, all-ages. OutWestFest.org.