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Rock & Rails kicks off 11th year in June

 

Aurelia Pollard/Left Hand Valley Courier The Hazel Miller Band will be performing again at this year’s Rock & Rails on Thursday, August 4, at Whistle Stop Park.

Niwot is known for many events, including the 4th of July and Halloween parades, Enchanted Evening, First Friday Art Walks, and Let’s Wine About Winter. But its most popular and well known event may be its summer concert series Rock & Rails, which runs from June through August.

This year, Rock & Rails is planning for another successful year by bringing in people who may not have attended one of the concerts before. Niwot resident Satir DeMarco, the Rock & Rails emcee, schedules all the bands and understands what Niwot likes best.

Several of the bands will be recognized by regular attendees, including Face, The Hazel Miller Band, Rebecca Folsom and Chris Daniels and the Kings. DeMarco knows it’s important to have returning performers who enjoy playing in Niwot and whom the community enjoys watching.

“When I have those recurrent bands, it’s my idea of a family touchstone,” DeMarco said. “It’s good to have them while we circulate other people in. I’ve tried to do a variety again [with the bands].”

DeMarco also tries to bring in new bands and bands with different sounds. She believes this year’s opening band, Something Underground, will be a big hit with concert goers.

“Something Underground - they’re very young and very heart-based,” DeMarco explained. “Incredibly loving, incredibly talented. It’s guitar-based and drums, and they both sing. They just create a welcoming, wonderful vibe that they’re the perfect people to open us up.”

Not everyone has the same taste in music, so she tries to bring in a different mix of sounds. She said many songs will be recognized by teenagers as well as their grandparents, but she doesn’t get too funky with her music choices.

“I like to mix originals with good old favorites so people feel at home,” DeMarco said. “It’s the kinds of songs that your teenagers would recognize because they’re classics that are remade now. So I try to get a wide range, but I don’t get too edgy with Niwot.”

DeMarco is looking forward to a performance by Cody Qualls and The Brand New Ancients, who will be playing on Thursday, July 21. “I went to see them and I was blown away,” DeMarco said of the band. “Cody is an amazing front man and entertainer. The songs are positive and a little more contemporary, they’re originals. But I am so lucky to get him before I can’t afford him because he’s just breaking out - he has such a following already.”

Scheduling went smoothly for DeMarco, who has been doing this for Rock & Rails for many years. “The only thing I wish I had was more days because there are so many bands,” she said. “The hardest thing is balancing bringing in new bands, and new people that have a following and are professionals… I want to keep us up there as one of the premiere venues and Niwot is considered one of the top premiere music festivals, because of the beautiful setting and the welcoming, kindness of the people.”

Although the concert seems like the main part of Rock & Rails, DeMarco believes it’s much more than just the music; it’s the “unique combination of community and friendly volunteers” that keep people coming back every year.

“The music is just a little piece of the recipe,” DeMarco said. “I always like to stress that the major part of the pie is the volunteers [among other elements]... It always surprises me when folks haven’t been there and they’re intimidated and think it’s going to be crazy, and it’s not.”

Even some of the bands ask DeMarco to play in Niwot. She knows she has to continue taking care of her musicians if she wants them to keep returning year after year.

“A lot of these bands that play everywhere like Hazel [Miller Band], Face and Rebecca [Folsom], ask me to play here, because it’s their favorite venue,” DeMarco explained. “So that’s why I book some of these people over and over. I really believe in taking care of the musicians too.”

It’s not just what people see at the concerts that helps them run smoothly, but also what goes on behind the scenes. Even though Rock & Rails is a popular music festival, it still operates on a budget, and DeMarco is thankful for the discounted price their sound guy gives.

“I want to give a shout-out to our sound guy, Craig Cutcliff,” DeMarco said. “Craig has a new, upgraded sound system and he does it all for a family price. If Craig charged what other sound people charged, we couldn’t afford to do what we do-it’s that dramatically different.”

Weather can sometimes be an issue during the summer months in Colorado, because people never know if a thunderstorm may roll through in the afternoon. Some concerts were affected last year by rain, but were never fully canceled.

“I have my bands come, we want everyone to come, even if it seems like it’s going to be raining,” DeMarco said. “People should plan on coming even if it looks like rain, just bring a raincoat… I have to pay the bands anyway once they’re there, so if people would come and throw some money in the tip jar and have a drink. As long as it’s safe we’ll continue on.”

The first Rock & Rails concert is on Thursday, June 2 at Whistle Stop Park, starting at 5 p.m. with Dean Himes opening, and Something Underground taking the stage at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on dates and performers, visit Niwot.com and look under Events.

 

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