Who: Ben Sollee with Trampled By Turtles
When: 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Where: Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
When Ben Sollee pedaled into the Bonnaroo music festival, concertgoers knew he meant business.
Sollee is a cello-playing, alt-folk artist, and this musician spends a lot of his time bicycling to his regional shows. Yes, he does bring the cello along for the ride.
On Friday and Saturday, Sollee will be opening for Trampled By Turtles at the Bluebird. It’s a bit nippy out there, so the musician won’t be biking to these December concerts.
That said, Sollee is gaining note for his exquisite work on the cello and his dynamic songwriting. The performer has toured extensively with Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet.
“I chose to play the cello when I was in the public schools,” Sollee explained. “It had a real contrast in sounds and it’s a very versatile instrument. It creates every sound I could possibly want. It can be vicious or tender — it has all those qualities.”
Sollee started writing music in high school, but his international tours with the Sparrow Quartet took his music to the next level.
“I’ve had the chance to play some really amazing shows around the world with Abigail,” Sollee said. “We even went to China and Tibet. It was surreal.
“I’m now working on my solo career. There’s a entire landscape of music to explore.”
Sollee loves his music, but he’s also interested in promoting environmental causes.
The conscientious musician worked on the upcoming record, Dear Companion. The CD will be released in 2010, and Sollee’s hoping the project will bring awareness to coal mining practices in Appalachia.
“The record’s going to be out on Sub Pop. It was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket,” Sollee said. “We made it to raise awareness about the removal of the mountaintops — where there’s coal mining.
“It’s happening in Appalachia, and everything from the mountaintops is getting pushed into streams and drinking water.”
Sollee takes environmental issues very seriously, and that’s why the performer bicycles to many of his shows.
“I’ve been doing regional bike tours,” Sollee said. “In June, I rode 356 miles through Appalachia to get to Bonnaroo. We haul all our gear and there are no support vehicles — just us and the instruments. The venues provide the amps.
“Bicycles are one of the most beautiful inventions we have. I’m also riding to raise awareness for Oxfam America, because they do developmental work and anti-poverty stuff. More bands should be out there riding their bikes.”
Colorado music fans love the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. That idea inspired Fort Collins’ Dead Floyd to combine both bands’ music into one concert revue.
Saturday, Dead Floyd plays its debut show at the Fox. This is one of the venue’s final shows before New Year’s, so it will be a great way to wind down 2009.
“We started to play gigs in June,” guitarist Charlie Humphreys said. “I think Dead Floyd is a good combination. Both bands had a lot of similar ideas, but they both took different approaches to their craft.
“We just love the songs of both bands. Plus, we’ve gotten a tremendous response.”
Humphreys says fans of the Dead and Pink Floyd will appreciate this live show.
“We play the Pink Floyd songs note for note — to a certain extent, but we do improvise on the Dead songs,” Humphreys said. “We’re not a tribute band, but we bridge the gap between the two bands.
“This show is really about the music and the performance. Because we haven’t played the Boulder market, we’re going to use four or five shows worth of material. It will be like playing our greatest hits.”
The members of Dead Floyd also like to give back to the community, and the band plays for many charity events.
“We feel there’s a certain stigma to covering other bands,” Humphreys explained, “We feel we have a serious debt to do it well — and to give back.
“At the Fox show, we’ll be working with Rock the Earth and getting people registered with the green movement.”