With Longmont’s Downtown summer concert series — that took place at Fourth Avenue and Kimbark Street — canceled in response to COVID-19, area eateries are welcoming musicians to perform on rooftops and in alleyways. Dickens Opera House is hosting free shows throughout the summer on the patio of Dickens 300 Prime, 300 Main St. — formerly Dickens Tavern.
“’Performer’ and ‘entertainer’ are certainly at my core, my identity,” said Denver-based indie musician Brian Parton, who will perform on Dickens’ patio Saturday at 3 p.m. “So, until I started a YouTube channel a month or so into the shutdown, I must admit — things were looking and feeling rather grim, as far as my psyche was concerned.”
Parton, like multiple artists during coronavirus closures, took to his computer to keep fans engaged.
“I did a Facebook live show in June and it seemed to go over quite well,” Parton said. “There were over 600 viewers the night it aired, with close to 900 as of a week ago.”
The upcoming Dickens show will be Parton’s fourth live set since late June.
“There have been shows in Lafayette, Hill City, South Dakota and the morning of the Dickens show I’ll be playing the farmers market for Colorado Fresh Markets in Cherry Creek,” Parton said.
While he shares a last name with the queen of country, Parton’s sound is reminiscent of Lou Reed, Tom Petty and sometimes Elvis Costello with subtle hints of Violent Femmes.
From covering The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and Liz Phair’s “Extraordinary” to offering fresh originals, he reminds audiences of the understated power that emanates from someone strapped with a guitar and unencumbered authenticity.
“Jerry Lee Lewis is my favorite instrumentalist over every guitar player,” Parton said. “And, once I was able to start smuggling in some rock ’n’ roll records in my late teens, Elvis Presley’s ‘The Sun Sessions,’ the Rolling Stones’ ‘Some Girls’ and Carlene Carter’s ‘Musical Shapes’ went on repeat.”
For Parton, the “core” of his musicianship all goes back to hearing his father singing and strumming away on guitar. His dad’s musical taste ran the gamut and young Parton’s childhood home was often filled with twangy country, bluegrass, jazz and blues from the first half of the 20th century.
“The audience can expect a real fireball of a performance because I’m all refreshed and charged up from having the longest stretch of downtime I’ve ever had in this business,” Parton said. “So great to be back. The legs, voice and endurance are still there because I’ve been doing about two hours of physiotherapy at home, plus walking 45 to 60 minutes nearly every day since 2015.”
Last year, Parton penned a song that is sure to offer comfort to listeners during a global health scare and social unrest. The tune was actually born out of a therapy session.
“I’m not a bit skittish in offering that I’ve been seeing a professional counselor since 2018,” Parton said. “In 2019, I was bemoaning an all-encompassing prevalence of saudade and a two-year writing drought. I wasn’t even exercising with the usual diligence. So, my counselor prescribed that l ‘write a song about the stuff that’s going right in your life.’ Episodically, there were some great moments, so I concentrated on those.”
The result, “Everyday is Great,” is an upbeat fast-paced folk-punk number in which Parton counts his blessings. Listeners can’t help but sing the chorus.
The pandemic has provided Parton with more time to write new tunes. One that he may treat audiences to on Saturday seems very apropos given the venue’s history and namesake.
“There are four new songs… one that I refer to as my ‘magnum opus to this point,’” Parton said. “It’s called ‘She’s the Only One for Me’ and just happens to include the line ‘she’s my file and wittles’ which, admittedly, is a bit of a nick from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations.’”
Parton’s new album, “Crazy as You” is available for purchase through PayPal.me/BrianPartonCO.
“I really like people, and so that’s the main reason I’m in entertainment,” Parton said. “I want to do something that’s fun for them. And, audiences are always very generous with compliments in addition to applause and attentiveness.”
Parton has another Facebook Live 60-minute gig tentatively scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14. He’ll play Cherry Creek Farmers Market 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 15 and at Boulder’s Upslope Brewing 6-8 p.m. Aug. 28.
“The calendar is beginning to shape up a bit,” Parton said, noting he’ll be back at Dickens Opera House on Aug. 8.
Among the packed lineup, Loveland musician Marty Nightengale will perform at Dickens Aug. 9 and 23.
“Brian is a great musician, but booking two shows close like this helps with building a draw,” said Doug Tackett, owner of Greeley-based Alpine Music Connection, a company that books all of Dickens’ patio shows. “I want my musicians to tell patrons that they are coming back and encourage customers to return.”
For Tackett, barrooms and venues closing throughout the country has slowed his business down significantly.
“The new normal has brought live music to a screeching halt,” Tackett said. “Summer patios are keeping some solo and duo musicians busy, but the amount of rooms open and continuing with music is but a fraction of what would be in a normal summer.”
Despite restrictions, Tackett continues to keep the open venues filled with a rotating roster of Colorado musicians. Jake’s Roadhouse, Platte River Grill, Dickens Opera House and other rooms across the Front Range and Summit County continue to host Alpine Music Connection’s artists.
“There is nothing for bands to do,” Tackett said. “First the venues were simply closed. Then when opened, rooms are under heavy capacity restrictions — singers need to have masks, no horn players and now last call is at 10 p.m. There is not a lot to work with right now.”
Some of the artists he represents are That Damn Sasquatch, Wylie Jones and Ryan Chrys & the Rough Cuts.
“Drive-ins’ concerts will be a short-lived fad once a vaccine is distributed,” Tackett said. “We are in this mess for at least through the rest of the year. Musicians and live music venues will be the last to recover from this crisis.”
Upcoming Shows at Dickens Patio
July 27 Kenny SwaggerAug. 1 Brandon HarrisAug. 2 Kenny SwaggerAug. 8 Brian PartonAug. 9 Marty NightengaleAug. 15 Kenny SwaggerAug. 16 Brandon HarrisAug. 22 Jackson CloudAug. 23 Marty Nightengale