Rooted in the Hills

Feb 152006
Authors: Meg Burd

For local bluegrass impresarios Head for the Hills, roots are important. Their music is rooted in bluegrass tradition, mountain living and the CSU and Fort Collins community, which has allowed them to grow, thrive and blossom into an influential and popular local band.

Head for the Hills' bluegrass sound started during Mike Chappell's and guitar/banjo player Adam Kinghorn's senior year in high school. Jamming together, they carried their music into college, where they met Joe Lessard (fiddle/beatbox) and Matt Loewen while playing in Westfall Hall.

"It all started in the dorms for the most part," Chappell said. Moving outside of Westfall, Head for the Hills "had our first real show at a house party," Chappell remembers. "People really liked what we were doing."

Mixing traditional bluegrass sounds with unique improvisations and a variety of different genres, the band's blend of traditional and original proved a hit with listeners.

Picking up both a following of students and other local Fort Collins fans, the band searched out gigs at places such as the Aggie Theatre and other spots around town, in particular Mishawaka Amphitheater, which Chappell notes was a major point in the history of the band.

"It had been like a dream of mine for years," he said of playing Mishawaka. Playing to a record crowd, the band has returned to Mishawaka with much success, even headlining the popular festival "Pickin' on the Poudre" in May 2005, a camping festival that featured music by some of the best-known bluegrass bands. Head for the Hills proved themselves an essential feature of not only local bluegrass music, but the local music scene in general.

Another major turning point for the band came as they opened for the David Grisman Quintet, a major innovator in the bluegrass scene for more than forty years. Performing on the same stage as the Grisman, a legendary mandolin player, was, Chappell noted, "one of the highlights of the band's history."

The band will continue to make its own history with more upcoming shows in a variety of new towns, including an appearance in Winter Park at Buckets Saloon on Friday.

After a Boulder show in March, the band plans to take off on a Midwest Tour. "We're doing the tour on our Spring Break," Chappell said.

Hitting music centers such as Kalamazoo, St. Louis, Chicago and Lawrence, Kansas (they're taking part in the "Jazz Haus St. Patty's Day Bluegrass Throwdown"), the band is sure to generate a broader fan base and spread their unique sound to even more listening ears.

Rooted in musical tradition and Colorado living, the band is likely to keep growing and innovating, proving themselves even more essential to both the local and national bluegrass scene, doing their roots proud.

Meg Burd can be reached at


For more information, please see Head for the Hills Web site at

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