On Halloween night, Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams performed at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lyons.
In itself, this was a routine event.
In context, it was momentous.
Like everything else in Lyons, live music venues were shut down by flooding in September. This was especially painful in Lyons, where music is an essential component of the community character. The town is home to many professional musicians, and it's brimming with music lovers. Planet Bluegrass, the concert producer and ranch located just northwest of downtown, is the site of two annual world-class music festivals.
One of the most widely reported flood stories in Lyons was that of David and Enion Tiller, a husband-and-wife duo who front the band Taarka.
When the floods came, the music stopped. Until Halloween.
Wofford and his honky-tonk band were the first to perform at Oskar Blues, the town's primary music venue, since the flood.
"It felt just kind of like a grand opening," Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis said. "I think everyone was just happy to get together, share a beer, throw some hugs around."
Oskar Blues' Lyons location is back to scheduling at least some regular music events, including its regular bluegrass pick on Tuesday nights. Monocle Band, a folk quintet with two members who live in Lyons, had plans before the flood to have a CD release concert at the hometown Grill & Brew. After the flood, Oskar Blues moved the event to its Longmont location, Home Made Liquids & Solids. But progress in returning services back to Lyons recently allowed Monocle to move its CD release back to Grill & Brew on Friday, Nov. 8.
Monocle leader and songwriter Monica Whittington lives in Lyons, and she recently moved back into her home.
"Slowly but surely the town is coming back to life again," she said, adding that she senses a buzz in the community. She went to the Oskar Blues Halloween show.
The CD whose release Monocle is celebrating starting at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, was recorded in the Tillers' studio.
The Planet Bluegrass grounds were completely submerged at the height of the flood, and the St. Vrain River, on which the venue sits, cut a new channel in front of the main stage.
Planet owner Craig Ferguson vowed days after the flood that the venue would recover in time for the 2014 summer festival season, and so far he is making good on that promise, according to Planet spokesman Brian Eyster. Planet staff moved back to on-site offices earlier this week.
"This is our biggest milestone yet of our rebirth," Eyster said, adding that the property now has temporary electric lines, a couple of phone lines and portable bathrooms. A crew using backhoes has put the river back in its place, he said.
Of the several structures on the Planet Bluegrass ranch, the Wildflower Pavilion, an enclosed performance space, took the worst hit in the flood, Eyster said. It was about a $250,000 loss, and Planet staff are still assessing how to rebuild it.
Festival-goers will see a different Planet Bluegrass next year, but in many ways, Eyster said, it will be a better one.
"There's going to be some great things that come out of this," he said. "We're regrading the main field so everyone's going to have great sight lines of the stage.
Of more importance to music fans, the 2014 festivals are shaping up to be some of the Planet's best ever.
"I think there are a lot of artists who are longtime friends of Planet Bluegrass who want to come show their support for Lyons," Eyster said. "A couple artists contacted Craig directly and said, 'How can I come help out?' "
They include high-profile artists whose names can't yet be released, Eyster said, but he predicted that the Planet's RockyGrass festival could be its "best ever."
Planet Bluegrass plans to open its lottery for on-site camping at RockyGrass, scheduled for July 25-27, on Nov. 18; tickets for the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, scheduled for Aug. 15-17, go on sale Dec. 4, and tickets for RockyGrass go on sale Dec. 5.
"People both in Lyons and people who have a love of Lyons look at the rebirth of Planet Bluegrass as sort of an indicator of the rebirth of Lyons," Eyster said.
Feeling a pulse
One local music venue that will take a little longer to get back to business is the Lyons Fork downtown restaurant, which offered concerts every Sunday.
Owners Wayne and Debbie Anderson took a triple hit. The Lyons Fork flooded, their Lyons home flooded, and a second business they own -- Spirit Hound Distillers, on Ute Highway -- flooded.
Yet Wayne Anderson says he knows many people who lost more than he did, and he plans to reopen both businesses. He's hoping to open the Lyons Fork with at least partial hours starting on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The return of the restaurant would include a return of live music.
"We do feel kind of a sense of responsibility to get open and get the pulse going again," he said. "That's kind of part of the fabric of what Lyons is all about."
A concern of some Lyons residents is that the character of the town will never be the same. The worst hit part of town, the south side, was where much of its affordable housing was located, and that's where many of its musicians and artists lived.
"We're worried that a lot of those people have been displaced and not be able to return," the Fork's Anderson said.
The Planet's Eyster, whose family moved back into their Lyons home about a week ago, agreed that the question of the town emerging from the flood with an altered character weighs on the minds of many residents who have returned. And he acknowledged that the winter will likely prove tough for local businesses.
But Eyster takes comfort in the fact that the local cultural scene was a primary reason many people moved to Lyons in the first place.
"People," he said, "are even more committed to wanting to come back."
Quentin Young can be reached at 303-684-5319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.