In winter, I think of Colorado resorts in terms of skiing. In summer, I think of the Rocky Mountains in terms of hiking. If I crave outdoor music, sometimes I buy a ticket to a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. But this cost-cutting year, I’m re-mixing my seasonal favorites into new combos. On this Sunday, I mix Copper Mountain with world class guitarists with “free.” Through dumb luck, I find myself at an event that prompts me to tell my husband, “Ten years from now, we’ll tell people, ‘We were there when…'”
For one summer weekend Copper Mountain is Guitar Town.
The fifth annual Guitar Town is my first, but it won’t be my last. It’s not often you’ll catch me sitting still in the mountains. But this is the perfect lazy summer day: Dale and I sitting in a couple of camp chairs, staring at a stage backed by green mountains and fronted by colorful people, soaking in warm sunshine and hot music. The event attracts an unusual number of hippies left over from a 1970’s film reel, along with dogs, bikes and an excess of cowboy hats. But that’s not what I meant by, “We were there when…”
Guitar Town attracts an excess of cowboy hats.
I’m not very schooled in guitar greats, and big names like Mark Selby, Marty Stuart, or Brent Mason and the Players mean little to me. They’re all excellent, but that’s not what I meant either.
When Mason introduces a 19-year-old guitar player from England who he “discovered on YouTube,” I’m tickled to think many unique talents are catching breaks thanks to that venue. I figure we’re in for something unique. Yet, when Sol Philcox ambles onstage in an anonymous hoodie, his eyes obscured by a casual curtain of straight brown hair, he offers no clue he’s about to take us all on a high-altitude flight into gutsy new mountains-and-valleys of blues rock. People who heard Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Santana for the first time must have felt the same giddiness I’m feeling now. It’s not that he’s like them, but that he’s unlike anyone I’ve heard, though he plays a few recognizable riffs.
Dale grins and says, “When he came out of the womb, his mother handed him a guitar and said, ‘Here, play this and make us some money.'”
Sol Philcox looks and sounds as if he’s wrapped up in a private musical trance.
Philcox takes “Going Down” to new lows – in a good way. With his original song, “19 Days,” he turns teen angst into a tantalizing place to hang for a while. Both his vocals and his playing are spot-on. He looks and sounds wrapped up in a private musical trance. He doesn’t seem in need of an audience, just humbly content to have us along for the ride.
Three boy wonders momentarily steal the show.
He invites two other boy wonders, Tyler Bryant of Texas and Joe Robinson of Australia, to join him for a dreamy take on Hendrix’ “Little Wing.” As the grinning trio winds down, the crowd leaps to its feet. I don’t know if I’m more amazed by the new talent, or by the generosity of Mason, the seasoned veteran who had the courage to invite these kids to take center stage during his set. When he retakes the stage, saying, “That’s a hard act to follow,” the audience laughs, because, although he’s an amazing artist, we know he’s not kidding.
Copper Mountain offers many ways to fill a summer day.
This summer, Copper Mountain also offers bumper boat rides, golfing, mountain biking and free trips up and down the ski lift – none of which Dale and I bother with this time around, because we just came for the music. We do bother with pulled pork sandwiches and a chocolate milk shake, which harmonize with our laid back day. But it’s the three Young Turks of Guitar Town who take the simple pleasures of a perfect summer day to the next level.
After my trek around the world in 1999, I promised myself that, from then on, I’d stay open to new discoveries, everywhere life happened to take me – or leave me. Guitar Town is my latest reward. Not that I’m ready to embrace the staycation, but I know something can blow me away in my own backyard, just as easily as in anyone else’s.
Check out teen phenom Sol Philcox jamming on YouTube. He starts playing about 1:40 into the video: SolPhilcoxOnYouTube