Honey Island Swamp Band claims its Bayou Americana makes you smarter, thinner and better looking — but frontman Aaron Wilkinson also admits to being a fifth-generation North Florida redneck.
The musicians have traveled from their home base in New Orleans throughout the West to play in such fine establishments as The Goat Soup & Whiskey in Keystone and Whiskey Jacques in Ketchum, Idaho; this Fourth of July, the band, voted Best Roots Rock Artist in OffBeat’s 2010 Best of the Beat Awards, hits the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore.
Wilkinson wasn’t sure what to expect when the band began touring Colorado’s mountain towns, even though now, after years of traveling, they’re all beginning to blur together, he said.
“First time I’d ever really seen mountains, so I was all wide-eyed and full of wonder,” Wilkinson said. “Guess I kind of had an idealistic vision of what it would be like, nature and all.”
About six years ago, he and his crew followed a Telluride-area local to “secret” hot springs back in the hills.
“The city slickers in the band were huffing pretty heavy,” he said about the hike, which was a piece a cake for the locals. “You’re not prepared for that thin air, and we don’t exactly lead the healthiest lifestyles anyway. But after about an hour and a half of stopping every 50 yards so that my 55-year-old emphysemic drummer didn’t keel over and die, we come upon the spot.”
Situated at the bottom of a rocky bluff, it was gorgeous, just as advertised. Only problem: It wasn’t so secret; a rather portly man soaked in the pool with his cluster of kids — and at least a case of empty, crushed Busch cans beside him.
“He had on this bright red bandanna and a pair of those heinous reflective Oakley Blades,” Wilkinson said. “He’s all, ‘Come on in and join us,’ and we probably would have, given what we went through to get there.”
Just as the band was about to join the pool party, a train appeared on the ridge across the river, and the 6’6” man stood up, hollering and flipping off the train.
“Turns out, he’s butt-ass naked,” Wilkinson said. “Proud of it too. With his kids right there in the pool with him. Giving that train all he’s got and all God ever gave him.
“Needless to say, we didn’t join him, but then and there I realized something: Florida, Louisiana, Colorado — there are rednecks everywhere in this world, God bless ’em.”
Kimberly Nicoletti is the entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News. She lives in Silverthorne, Colo.