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Thursday, October 22,2009

Mountain sun keeps shining on

Brewpub throws 16th charity birthday bash

By Gene Ira Katz

Boulder’s award-winning Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery will celebrate 16 years of hoppy good times in a huge anniversary bash with The Pearl Street All-Stars, a lineup featuring high-caliber performers from the worlds of soul, funk, rock and fusion. This one-time-only collaboration brings together legendary New Orleans bass player George Porter Jr., String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, guitarist Eric McFadden from George Clinton’s P-Funk All Stars, Dirty Dozen Brass Band drummer Terrence Higgins and saxophonist Jay Rodriguez from Groove Collective. The Oct. 24 event, at the Boulder Theater, will benefit community radio KGNU (88.5 FM/1390 AM). The opening act for the festivities is Brooklyn’s Pimps of Joytime, an up-and-coming funk-groove band that has been developing a fan base here from its prior shows in Boulder.

The Pearl Street All-Stars have become an annual fixture at each October’s birthday bash, this being Porter’s sixth year as part of the band. The musicians basically gather together for the first time on the day before the show, each contributing a handful of tunes, and rehearse just enough to get up on stage the following night to shake the Boulder Theater with improvisational thunder.

“It’s not just another gig for me,” Porter asserts with an easy laugh. He’s done Pearl Street All-Stars shows with Hollingsworth several times before, and he says that he has loved working with Hollingsworth ever since they first met, playing with the Mickey Hart Band. This time, most of the performers have never previously worked with each other, which should make for a sonic adventure of musical discovery and invention.

“I’m definitely looking forward to having a good time,” Porter says, and you can almost hear him smiling over the phone.

Beginning nearly five decades ago, Porter, started out playing with seminal New Orleans artists like Allen Toussaint, Earl King, Lee Dorsey, and the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas. By the mid ’60s, Porter joined the Meters, considered by many to be the ultimate fusion of rock, funk and R&B, and he gained recognition as one of the scene’s top bass players. Over the years he has played shows and sessions with artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, David Byrne, Patti LaBelle, Robbie Robertson and Tori Amos, and on and on. His online discography is literally nine pages long, singlespaced.

While he still plays a regular weekly gig in hometown New Orleans, Porter also notes the dramatic changes that have taken place since Katrina. While he has noticed quite a few sons of famous fathers returning to New Orleans, too many old timers have disappeared. “We’ve lost a lot of good people left and right. Some areas are still hurting real bad and will probably never come back. For the most part, the original music that used to come out of the Ninth Ward [devastated by the hurricane]… a lot of those musicians are gone.”

More than just a musical detour, the yearly trip to Boulder for the All-Star collaboration reflects Porter’s current musical interests these days, as he brings that epic bottom end to his latest project, Porter Batiste Stoltz.

“It’s the ultimate jam band,” Porter explains. “This band slaps people in the face until they see how good the stuff is!” It’s the spontaneity of improvisation that he looks forward to bringing to Boulder each year, and by now, he feels that the Mountain Sun family is like his family.

“They’ve taken very good care of me up there,” he says.

The Mountain Sun first opened its doors on Pearl Street in October 1993, inspired by Oregon’s pub and microbrew scene. It was meant to be a gathering place, as their website states, “designed to feel like your living room, where the community can come to eat affordable, fresh pub grub and drink finely crafted ales, where folks play [board games] or debate politics or listen to free weekly concerts.” There will never be TVs displaying sporting events, or other distractions from the people connection, because “we want our guests to meet and discuss the world in which we live, or simply to play Scrabble.”

Apparently, they had the right idea from the start. The place quickly established itself as an institution in downtown Boulder, winning all sorts of awards for its excellent brews along the way. Nine years later, when it became clear that one Mountain Sun was not enough, they opened the Southern Sun in south Boulder in September 2002. Even two Suns were not enough, and the newest establishment, the Vine Street Pub, has been garnering its own collection of loyal customers in downtown Denver for the past year and a half.

Mountain Sun’s head brewer, Brian Hutchinson, was crowned Alpha King at this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the first Colorado brewer to ever take the title, in competition with 70 other “hoppier-thanaverage” beers. This accolade is the latest in a list that includes six previous GABF gold medals and various other medals across the globe, as well as consistently being voted the best in Boulder.

But the people behind Mountain Sun also see their mission as extending beyond their pubs and potable products, which is one reason that, once again, they´ll donate the proceeds from the 16th anniversary party to KGNU, as they have in previous years. So far, they have given some $25,000 to this volunteer-driven, community radio station, which has served the Front Range since 1978.

Doors open at 8 p.m. and $3 pints of Mountain Sun brews will be available at the event to help enliven what promises to be a funky, fantastic celebration. As George Porter Jr. declares, “We’re gonna have some fun.”

On the Bill:
The Pearl Street All-Stars play the Boulder Theater on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.

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