Life on the Mountain Music Road

by Kimberly Nicoletti on February 1, 2011

Playing chicken
Split Lip Rayfield, a “thrash-grass trio,” quickly learned that taking a live bantam hen from their farm in Kansas to mountain-town gigs ranging from Vail and Steamboat Springs to Jackson Hole and Utah resorts wasn’t such a good idea after all.

They originally thought the chicken might drum up T-shirt and CD sales during their aggressive acoustic bluegrass gigs. It sounded logical: Take a hen from mom’s farm, place it on a grid with hundreds of numbers, install chicken wire around the contraption, and sell tickets so fans could bet on which number the chicken would shit. Call it “chicken-drop bingo,” and it’s just like Cow-pie Bingo or Hillbilly Bingo — though we’ve never heard of cows or hillbillies cooped up on a number grid, with people watching and waiting for them to dump a big one.

“We were looking for something fun for the crowd,” said banjo player Eric Mardif. “But some people have never seen a live chicken before, and they’d freak out and want to touch it … people just wanted to constantly fuck with the chicken, like a kid banging on the glass of a fish tank.”

Luckily for Henrietta the hen, the boys in the band felt quite protective of her, but their compassion wasn’t the only reason they returned her to mom’s farm.

After carting her around in their van for two weeks, they discovered chickens are messy: They smell up a van much worse than touring musicians do (which is saying a mouthful), and they kick their water and woodchips all over the place (unlike the musicians, who normally just spill their beer on the van floor).

“It was fun, but traveling with a live chicken sucks,” Mardif said.

BINGO!

A Blue Ribbon night
Bay-area rapper Lyrics Born is used to crazy incidents in mountain towns; his signature funk sound, which, with his new album leans toward a more ’80s vibe, has brought him coast to coast, with plenty of high-elevation stops in-between, including Breckenridge, Durango, Telluride, Steamboat Springs, Vail and Flagstaff just last month.

“I don’t know if it’s the cold or the people who come up to party — maybe it’s so cold everybody tries to get excited to stay warm,” he said of the peculiarities he regularly experiences during mountain shows.

But one particular gig in Montana really sticks with him. He was playing for a Pabst Blue Ribbon-sponsored event — a beer he thinks is the “worst in the world.” Apparently, the hip-hop fans weren’t too attached to their brews either. Lyrics Born’s concert turned into a scene out of “Animal House.”

“The crowd started chanting with the song I was playing, and suddenly everybody started throwing PBRs all over each other,” he said. “All I saw were these red, white and blue cans, and they only were one size: big and cheap,” he said. “It was so much fun because it was so wild.”

The only downside:
“But it was disgusting,” he said. “My shoes (forever) smelled like PBR.” Stale PBR, that is.

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