Hippie Radio to broadcast ‘Salida’s Next Last Waltz’ on Thanksgiving, Sunday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven life-changing, especially for musicians, whose bookings have evaporated, replaced by odd jobs supplemented by Venmo donations from virtual performances. One concert that fell victim to the pandemic holds special significance for local musicians and community members alike – “Salida’s Next Last Waltz.”
The concert has become a Thanksgiving holiday tradition that combines the talents of 32 local musicians as they re-create the legendary “Last Waltz” concert performed in 1976 by The Band and a Who’s Who list of ’70s musicians.
Salida drummer and music teacher Trevor “Bones” Davis helps organize the event each year along with George Mossman, also a drummer/music teacher, and Lindsay Sutton Stephens, who coordinates the non-musical elements of the production.
Bones, through Articipate, a local arts nonprofit, recently secured a Chaffee Emergency Response Fund grant of almost $5,000 from the Chaffee County Community Foundation to support Salida’s Next Last Waltz musicians. “A lot of them are really suffering,” he said.
The Emergency Response Fund was established “to help fill in gaps in public assistance for those adversely affected by COVID-19 in Chaffee County.”*
“This has been a really hard time for the musicians,” Bones said, noting that the grant covers 35 percent of what the musicians were paid for their Last Waltz performances last year. “(The pandemic) is affecting a lot of people in a lot of different ways, so even being able to hand somebody $150 helps.”
Duke Sheppard of Pint and a Half acknowledged, “2020 was devastating for us. Just mentally, it was really hard to accept that all of our hard work booking tours was just gone in an instant. We had almost 100 shows on the books, everywhere from AZ to England, and it all just disappeared.”
In the community spirit that has made Salida’s Last Waltz a local tradition, Heart of the Rockies Radio will look to increase the financial support for these talented musicians through a fundraiser featuring two broadcasts of last year’s performance at the Ivy Ballroom.
The story behind Salida’s Last Waltz started in the Mossman household, where Thanksgiving tradition dictates that The Band’s original Thanksgiving Day concert plays pretty much all day on “repeat.” Mossman had long dreamed about being a part of re-creating that concert and realized that the Upper Arkansas Valley had acquired the musical talent to pull it off.
Stephens said a conversation with Mossman and Bones in her kitchen sealed the deal, and the trio went to work, with Bones and Mossman recruiting and organizing the musicians and Stephens coordinating most everything else.
Their efforts – combined with the work of many talented artists, technicians and crew members – produced “Salida’s First Last Waltz” in 2017, a true community effort to create a true community event. The sold-out show proved wildly successful.
“We did not expect it to get this big this fast,” Stephens said. “We were just hoping that people would show up. But it brings the community together; it brings the musicians together. … It brings so many different generations together. It’s a cool feeling. There are very few things that can bring that many people together.”
Shawn Waggoner (aka Shawntel Royale of Blue Recluse) said the 2017 concert was her first chance to work with other local musicians. “It was so much fun to work with all of these super-talented musicians and to have the chance to become friends with them. … That feeling of mutual respect and love came out in the show. … It was one of my favorite all-time memories of being a musician.”
The 2017 show was so popular that a second show was added in 2018, and both shows sold out quickly. For 2019, a third show was added at the Ivy Ballroom at Buena Vista’s Surf Hotel. All three shows sold out, with the two Salida shows selling out in less than 20 minutes.
Jim Lofgren, one of Salida’s most ardent music fans, talked about how much he looks forward to the Last Waltz concerts every year. “It’s a big community event, and you saw almost everybody there. … I sure do look forward to it. I’m usually the first one in line to get tickets because it’s such a great event.”
“We really are missing ‘The Last Waltz,’” Sheppard said. “For us, it was a rare chance to see and listen to our musician friends that we rarely get to see perform. … There are so many great musician friends in Salida, but we were constantly on the road, so taking this month to be there rehearsing and then performing with them was a treat.”
“To have 32 musicians rehearsing and performing with no ego, it’s magic,” Stephens said, “People talk about meeting up with people they haven’t seen in years … and the musicians feed off the energy of the crowd. You can feel how fun it is, and you can feel the love from the whole community.”
And for the musicians, she added, “it’s such a family event … coming together and rehearsing three times a week.”
Bones said that, before the pandemic hit, the plan for 2020 was to add two more shows, one in Salida and one in BV. Hopefully, those five shows will happen in 2021, but if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for the Salida’s Last Waltz family, we lost a local music patriarch when Deke Rushton passed away in August.
Rushton was a member of the Lazy Aliens Blues Band, one of Salida’s first rock bands and a precursor to Mo’ Champipple and the Meso Horns. Rushton’s family members and fellow musicians have commented how much it meant to him to be a part of the Last Waltz family, and his last performance was in the 2019 Next Last Waltz when he sang “The Show Must Go On.”
In addition to the musicians, Bones and Stephens credited Kat McQuillan, owner of Tenderfoot Health Collective, with making the shows possible through her sponsorship of the concerts. McQuillan has consistently supported live music in Salida and expressed her concern for local musicians during the pandemic.
Sutton echoed McQuillan’s concerns, “I’m worried about the musicians, especially with winter coming, and (music) is all some of them do.”
*According to its website, the Chaffee County Community Foundation has distributed more than $330,000 from the emergency fund to more than 300 local households and 28 nonprofits.