With less than a week’s notice, ski-rock band Tenth Mountain Division stepped up to the plate this weekend when a cancellation opened up a headlining slot at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom. A group that is quickly earning their status as local legends in the Colorado music scene, the five-some prepared to fill some big shoes for the two-night run this past Friday and Saturday. Gathering friends and musical peers to help the last-minute shows go off without a hitch, Tenth Mountain Division curated a stacked lineup of pickers and jammers to add more flavor to an already overflowing cup of musical talent.
Winston Heuga, MJ Ouimette, Campbell Thomas, Tyler Gwynn and Andrew Cooney employed the support of guitarists Patrick Harvey and Jacob Moss, saxophonist Kevin Supina, fiddler player Dan Andree and mandolinist Luke Hinder to create quite the all-star show. The five special guests took turns accompanying the main five, who carefully selected their setlist of both cover songs and original tunes to perfectly compliment the skills of each individual player. With ten musicians moving on and off stage over the course of nearly four hours, the show was a beautifully chaotic and very literal game of musical chairs.
Each member of Tenth Mountain Division played their part — Heuga is the bluegrass-centric picker, Ouimette is the punk-rock shredder, Thomas is the soulful crooner, Cooney is the cool killer on bass and Gwynn is the one we trust to keep the beat. Friday night’s setlist was as diverse and all-encompassing as the band itself, and their five musical guests fell right into the groove. The first handful of song selections included originals off the band’s latest album, Butte La Rose. Supina sat in on the peaceful, easy “Highland Morning” and Thomas gave us a glimpse into his soul with “Get Out of My Head.”
A down-tempo but undisputed highlight of the evening was this super group’s version of Jorma Kaukonen’s “Genesis,” which caught the night’s first appearances from Moss and Andree. Grateful Dead covers are commonly found on local setlists, and Friday night was no exception. Supina returned with Harvey for renditions of “Deal” and “I Know You Rider,” the latter of which took a rock ‘n’ roll spin with help from Ouimette. The guest saxophonist and guitarist stayed on for the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin!” before a new rotation brought back Andree for Darrell Scott’s “Long Time Gone.”
With Hinder taking his turn on stage, it was back-to-back bluegrass with a cover of Old & In The Way’s classic “Midnight Moonlight” and a Huega/Hinder pick-off during Flatt & Scruggs’ “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Keeping the energy going well past midnight, a raging “Hot Sweaty South” saw Thomas simultaneously belting out his lyrics and banging on his keys while Supina’s saxophone wailed, leading the crowd in a raucous dance party. As the stage lights dimmed to blue, the musicians laid down their instruments and gracefully departed the stage, leaving Gwynn alone for a brief but impressive drum solo that received a hollering ovation from the crowd.
Back onstage, it was just Tenth Mountain Division for Eric Clapton’s “San Fransisco Bay Blues” until Moss, Hinder and Andree rejoined the group for one of the band’s most beloved covers, Widespread Panic’s “Climb To Safety.” What followed was Cooney’s husky vocals on Lefty Frizzell’s “Long Black Veil” and another original off Butte La Rose, “Drown You With The Bottle.” Graciously thanking their audience and loyal fans for showing up and fully sending it on short notice, the five immensely talented lads of Tenth Mountain Division took their leave of the stage, exhausted but with an air of excitement for their return for round two the following evening.