They started as friends playing music together in the Westfall Dorm in 2003, but Head for the Hills quickly outgrew the tallest buildings on campus and established themselves as one of the leading bluegrass groups in Fort Collins.
Theyâ€™ve successfully parlayed their unique take on Bluegrass into a full time job, playing roughly 75 shows a year.
While their music takes them to ever changing locals, one show has remained a staple on their schedule for the past six years: opening weekend at Mishawaka. This year, however, opening weekend is going to be a bit different than in the past.
Head for the Hills will be playing the Waterfront Music Festival at the Mishawaka, which runs May 14 through 16.
A celebration of bluegrass in northern Colorado, the festival is the first of its kind and marks the beginning of Mishawakaâ€™s concert season.
I asked bassist/vocalist Matt Loewen and Mike Chappell, mandolin, some questions in light of the festival.
Collegian: How important has Colorado been to your sound?
Chappell: The Colorado acoustic scene has always been supportive of bands going out of the box. When you think of the word bluegrass, you think of Tennessee and other areas like that. Colorado has embraced that, but has also allowed bands to go out of the box and stay within the realm of bluegrass.
Collegian: The music scene here in Fort Collins is pretty unique for a small town. How have you benefited from it?
Loewen: The strength of the scene and differences in groups is great. It creates an atmosphere for a great town to see music in and play music in. The fans have always been really responsive. Itâ€™s allowed us to branch out and use the success in other places.
Collegian: Where do you want your sound to go in the future?
Loewen: Iâ€™m just interested to see what we all come up with. Everyone is still growing in terms of (his) writing and musicianship. As we get further down, I think things will just get more interesting. For instance, Adam has been studying a lot of jazz guitar. Hearing it come through is really interesting.
Collegian: The Waterfront Music Festival is at the Mishawaka. Whatâ€™s it like to play opening weekend at the Mish?
Chappell: Well, we used to do Pick on the Poudre. It was a similar event at the Mishawaka where everyone could go and camp. This will be our sixth year playing opening weekend at the Mish. Itâ€™s cool to be in it because it brings back the essence of what we want to do. The people over at Mishawaka have always been really supportive of us.
Collegian: So who are you most excited to see at the Waterfront Music Festival?
Loewen: Iâ€™m most excited to see the Grant Farm Thing. Theyâ€™re playing Friday. Itâ€™s Tyler Grant, whoâ€™s a really smoking guitar player around here, Benny Galloway and Andy Thorne. Itâ€™s a great group and a combination I havenâ€™t seen before.
Collegian: This oneâ€™s last on the list, but still important. Whatâ€™s your favorite Fort Collins brewed beer?
Loewen: Iâ€™d have to go with Triple.
Chappell: Definitely Five Barrel. Iâ€™m a big fan of Odellâ€™s. I like all of their beers.
The Waterfront Music Festival
Tickets: Three-day pass with free camping is $99.
- Wicked Messenger
- Adam Aijala & Ben Kaufmann
- Head for the Hills (2 sets)
- Greensky Bluegrass
- Billy Nershi’s Blue Planet
- The Drew Emmitt Band
- Gregory Alan Isakov
- Swing Set featuring Dave Johnston of Yonder Mountain String Band
- Pete Kartsounes Band with Guests
- Spring Creek Bluegrass Band
- White Water Ramble
- Mountain Standard Time
- The Grant Farm with Benny Galloway, Tyler Grant, Andy Thorn, and Jordan Ramsey
- Springdale Quartet