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A Joyful REturn to Mountain Roots

Two decades after it formed (and broke up), Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band reunites at Rooster Walk 14

This year at Rooster Walk 14, a band that broke up 20 years ago played their first-ever East Coast festival set.

No one will blame you if you don’t recognize Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band’s name right away. But jamgrass fans undoubtedly go slack-jawed when they hear the names of its members: Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass. Travis Book of Infamous Stringdusters. Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon. Robin Davis of his self-titled duo. Jon Stickley of his self-titled trio.

Folks might wonder how they missed hearing about this supergroup made up of players from some of the most iconic modern bluegrass acts. To already know the whole story, you had to be there two decades ago in Durango, Colorado, when the band connected in the mountains, burned brightly for a couple of years, and went their separate ways to find fame in other bands.

BMBB got together in 2003 when its members were in their early 20s. They had a good run and released a solid album, Cabin in the Hills, the following year before established bands took notice and came calling.
“Looking back on it, it was like a farm team in baseball,” laughs Beck, the band’s dobro player. “Everyone’s like, all right, that kid’s good. Let’s get him.”

Broke Mountain’s Rooster Walk appearance was yet another one-off, crowd-pleasing, special event from the creative minds at the festival—and so much more. It was a reunion of band members who Beck says stayed “best friends through it all” as their respective bands found success over two decades. Broke Mountain reunited first in 2019 at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and again at Strings & Sol in Mexico in 2021. The band re-released Cabin in the Hills for its 20th anniversary and played two shows in Denver last December.
And on the first night of Rooster Walk 14, BMBB took the stage again, delivering a joyful, exuberant 90-minute celebration of old and new times. The members smiled almost constantly as they played songs from their album along with a few newer tunes and some bluegrass classics, interspersing those with stories of their youth.

“It feels amazing,” Stickley says. “Rooster Walk—it’s family to me, it feels like home. I was at the first one and I’ve been at many since. And to be doing Broke Mountain here this year, it really is bringing it full circle. And just another excuse to be with all of my best pals that we don’t get to see each other that much. Any chance to do that is great.”

“We love our bands,” Thorn says. “We love Leftover, we love Greensky, but there’s a lot going on, you know what I mean? This is just really laid back and it’s really fun and we’re goofing around.”

Beck says revisiting the music they wrote together years ago takes them back to a time when personal and musical bonds were being formed and everything felt special. And it gives the BMBB members the rare opportunity to share something with fans who never knew that part of their careers even existed.

“It’s shockingly easy and natural and fun,” Beck says. “Twenty years ago, these were our formative musical experiences, learning songs, writing songs, playing songs together when we’re kids. It’s all so ingrained in how I learned how to play from these guys and with these guys. The amount of joy that’s on stage and around when we are doing this again now 20 years later is so evident and so fun and exciting.”

The band is scheduled for a few more appearances this year: RockyGrass in Lyons, Colorado, on July 28; Strings & Sol on Dec. 12-16; and a couple more Denver shows in December.

“We’re trying to only do really fun gigs,” Stickley says. “We’re not forced to do anything we absolutely don’t want to do. So it’s pretty nice.”
“We’ll see what else happens,” Thorn says. “Spontaneity is a big part of it.”
For now, fans will have to look out for Broke Mountain’s sporadic appearances and enjoy its members’ (admittedly excellent) other bands.
“There’s this cool thing where it’s new to people when we play together now, but it’s so old to us,” Beck says. “It’s really cool to share that with people because fans of our bands—our current bands—see it as a really big deal, too. They can’t believe that this is a thing.”

rooster singing with musical notes
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