A summer music series is kicking off today at The Center for the Arts.
The idea for Music Mondays came out of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to offer the community a chance to enjoy free, live music outdoors in a safe space.
It took a minute for the music series to get off the ground. It started with pop-up performances that weren’t heavily attended.
“But the people that came really enjoyed them,” said Willi Brooks, The Center’s events operations director who helps put on the shows. “It was something to have during the pandemic outside when you couldn’t really be near people.”
Over the next couple of years, The Center began hosting more acts throughout the summers, and the more formal Music Mondays series became more popular. This year, there will be shows in June, July and August. We here at KHOL were brought in by The Center to co-present the series and help finalize the lineup, since music discovery is a vital part of our mission at the station.
As the music director at KHOL, I drew from my recent experiences at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise while brainstorming which bands would be a good fit. My goal was to help bring some of the homegrown talent spirit to downtown Jackson.
We’ve also paired a different KHOL DJ with each of the groups’ styles to help warm up the crowd before the band takes the stage.
Kicking off this week
The first act to perform at Music Monday, tonight at 6 p.m., is De Gringos y Gremmies, a surf rock trio from Laramie.
When I first saw this band at Treefort as part of the Wyoming Art Council’s Wyoming Showcase, I was blown away. The members were all wearing matching Cuban shirts and tearing into some classic surf rock grooves, much to the crowd’s delight.
I got to catch up with De Gringos y Gremmies backstage in Boise. The band’s Shane Wallace and Dusty Richards described their sound and inspiration.
“It’s a cross between the spaghetti western soundtracks and a lot of the old surf instrumentals of the 60s,” Richards said.
Wallace added, “We love the beach movies and the biker movies from the 60s and the 70s, like American international pictures and the soundtracks that they would put out. And it’s just all kind of melded together into what we like to do now.”
Another Music Mondays act is Aaron Davis & the Mystery Machine. He’s a long-standing staple of the Jackson music scene. Aaron’s a vital part of this community, not only on the music side, but in general, what he does for the arts here in Wyoming.
I spoke with Davis at the Treefort Fest earlier this year. We talked about how he and his wife Sedar Rose started the “Wyomericana” caravan of musicians 10 years ago to help bring attention to some of the music acts tearing up the least populated state.
“The impetus was to be able to pull musicians together and trade gigs as we’re moving across the state or moving across the region,” Davis explained. “The markets are few and far between in our part of the country, and so being able to team up in a small state where we get less recognition anyway — we act to make a bigger splash as a community.”
And later this summer, Laramie’s SGRNY will take the stage.
With influences like Tame Impala and Rage Against Machine, the four-piece band is atypical with their combination of organic and electronic instrumentation, using drum machines to complement their live instruments.
Brooks, from The Center, said this is different from the kind of music that typically comes to town.
“Jackson is known for its bluegrass nights and its honky tonk kind of feel at the bars around town,” Brooks said. “This band, when you first brought them to me, Jack, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s so cool that this is happening in Wyoming because there’s not a lot of that in Wyoming.’ So, it was kind of something different that we haven’t had.”
Aaron Zarzuela, Danny Shade, and Twitch of SGRNY said the pandemic inspired them to start fostering a music scene in Laramie.
“We would meet up and talk about how we needed new music, different types of music coming in, and we wanted to kind of pioneer that and be at the front end of that,” Zarzuela said. “So, I think it was a lot of just trying to play for the community that inspired the group to get together.”
“We’re providing something different and the energy is different and it shows at our shows,” Shade added.
And according to Twitch, “That’s what I always wanted growing up in Wyoming and never got it, so I like to inspire that.”
Joining SGRNY for the final Music Monday’s show in August is Jackson’s Box Elder.
Frontman Chris Archuleta said the way the band makes records and performs are totally different.
“My approach for recording has always been a bit more of an indie rock, alt-rock feel to the recordings,” Archuleta said. “’And I guess when we play live, the energy kicks in and, you know, we’re a punk band.”
De Gringos Y Gremmies
June 12 | 6:00 p.m.
Aaron Davis & The Mystery Machine
July 17 | 6:00 p.m.
SGRNY with Box Elder
Aug. 21 | 6:00 p.m.
The Center Amphitheater
More information at JHCENTERFORTHEARTS.ORG