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By Mary Willson
Music has a special way of refreshing attitudes and creating unity, and the Mishawaka knows this first hand.
The unique mountain amphitheater and restaurant situated 13 miles up the Poudre Canyon is in the midst of a strong 2013 summer, just a year after the High Park Fire threatened the venue last June. This season, “The Mish” has new acts and some very special aspects going on.
“There is this overwhelming sense of positivity in the canyon this summer,” Alana Rolfe, assistant general manager said. “It’s been raining so much, there are purple flowers budding around the canyon. There are just so many exciting things happening this season and exciting opportunities coming up.”
The summer started with a special monument unveiling, a life-size iron art piece depicting fire fighters, and the canyon’s mountains. Then, the Fort Collins Symphony performed a show with 17 musicians under a bright mountain sky the second week of June for the very first time the symphony has been to the venue.
For an additionally exciting change of pace, the canyon will be transformed into the Southern Bayou on July 20th. Straight out of Louisiana, The Mercy Brothers combine “zealous religious lyrics with the most raucous, rowdy accompaniment,” and will be bringing a slice of the South all the way west.
“This is as far northwest as we’ve ever gotten,” said Kevin Sekhani, singer and guitar player for the band.
The five-person Lafayette-based group came together at the end of 2011. Yet just a year later, they were put on the Grammy Nomination Ballot.
“It is a piece of Louisiana coming to Colorado, which is really unique,” Rolfe said. “In my experience, Louisiana is its own place and the fact that they are bringing that to the Mishawaka is really special.”
The High Mountain Bayou Swamp Fest features The Mercy Brothers and opener The Bluerunners.
The Bluerunners “mix their Cajun heritage, incorporating traditional music with rock and roll, zydeco, blues, and funk.”
“When we get a bunch of South musicians together, one of the fun things is to get a crawfish boil into it,” Sekhani said. “The thing that’s interesting with Louisiana music is that it’s played on back porches.”
A real Cajun afternoon will be among Colorado because The Mercy Brothers are bringing their very own spices and expertise, and together with the Mishawaka staff, authentic gumbo will be served during the show. The Mercy Brothers’ own chef, Jerry Colley, is said to be flying in to truly give the authentic taste to the meal.
“To have a real Louisiana afternoon is something really special,” Sekhani said.
The gumbo will be cooking, made from authentic and fresh ingredients that afternoon, ready to be served at the show. A Cajun cookout is really a new first for the Mishawaka, showing that the venue is always progressing and innovating.
“I have never booked a zydeco band before,” Dani Grant, Mishawaka owner said. “This band really is a shtick, they’ll take it to the next level.”
And The Mercy Brothers is a strong first zydeco band to book, as their song “Holy Ghost Power” has hit number five in the June Americana and Roots chart in Holland and May’s Euro American chart. The band will tour in Europe as well as hitting Colorado this summer.
Zydeco music was born as a blend of Cajun music and is a genre of American Folk music, which blends blues and rhythm together.
The Mercy Brothers’ latest album is named “Holy Ghost Power!” and is a truly upbeat mix of horns, strings, Southern-style lyrics and most of all, energy.
“They will be turning out with a big horn section,” Rolfe said. “That’ll definitely add to the excitement of the day.”
Combining the Colorado crowd with gospel, rich, Zydeco-style music and true southern gumbo is a true gift in the Poudre Canyon.
“We love to share our culture and we’re very excited to share our brand of South Louisiana with Colorado,” Sekhani said. “It will be great to see everyone’s reaction to [the gumbo].”
The thing about southern style food is that here in Colorado, most diners don’t know what potential it holds.
“Another part of Louisiana is coming,” Rolfe said. “We don’t really know what it will taste like because we don’t really know what southern food tastes like.”
Although places around town like Lucille’s and certain restaurant serve gumbo, something about Colorado doesn’t perceive authentic Cajun seafood well. The native taste to partner with the high-energy music is an opportunity truly unique to the Front Range.
“We are going to bring our own tent revival—a non-denominational one,” Sekhani said. “It’s really going to be a lot of fun.”
It is truly “culture clash of the best kind,” as “The Bayou comes to the Mountains”.
Tickets can be purchased online at themishawaka.com, by phone at 877-840-0457, at the Mishawaka or at Chipper’s Lanes. Bus tickets leaving from the CSU Transit Center and the Mason Transit Center are available for only $10, or parking passes can be purchased with your ticket for $40. Doors for the show open at 4 pm and the show kicks off at 6 pm. The gumbo will be sold there at the show, although it will go fast.
“We are delighted to be there—it will be a lot of fun,” Sekhani said.
Just one more thing to remember—although it is a true Southern night, please leave your crocodile at home.