By Dan Janowsky
Special to The PREVIEW
One of the Four Corners’ most popular bands, The High Rollers, will play its annual outdoor concert and dance benefit this Saturday, July 12, beginning at 7 p.m. This is the fifth year the concert has been held at Town Park, and each year the crowd grows, enjoying a beautiful summer evening outdoors with some first-class entertainment.
Lead vocalist and bass player Andy Janowsky works with his brother Dan Janowsky, head coach of the Pagosa Wrestling Club, to try to make this an affordable event for the entire family and everyone in town.
This year’s admission is a donation at the gate ($2 minimum is requested, not required, and under 12 are free). The event is supported by the donations at the gate, concession sales (a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans and a soft drink are sold for just $5 a plate), and participation in the baked goods auctions. The Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary Club provides a beer garden as well.
Another factor in the steadily growing crowds is the quality of the entertainment, put on by The High Rollers. The High Rollers play a brand of high-energy country rock and classic rock music. The band features lead vocals and original songs by Andy Janowsky, versatile stringed instrument player and vocalist Jeff Johnson, lead guitarist and vocalist Garrett Valencia and drummer and vocalist Mike Canterbury. Combine these seasoned musicians with an outstanding sound man, Scott Smith, and a top quality sound system, and you have a great show on stage.
While traditionally held in June, the Town Park concert had to be moved to July this year because The High Rollers climbed another rung in the music business, eagerly accepting an invitation to perform at the largest country music festival in the Rocky Mountain region, Country Jam. The band opened the four-day festival on the main stage and played several shows during the event. Headline acts for the 2014 Country Jam included Brantley Gilbert, Lady Antebellum and Eric Church. A crowd estimated at over 20,000 attended and The High Rollers justified their invitation by receiving enthusiastic reviews by the promoters of the event.
Following Country Jam, the band headed north to open for the Headwaters Country Jam, another large country music festival held in Three Forks, Mont. Here, the headline acts included Big and Rich and Montgomery Gentry. Again, The High Rollers held their own with their high energy music, humor and crowd interaction.
In order to be invited to play big events such as Country Jam, or play overseas in France and Spain, as The High Rollers will do later this fall, the band has put in countless hours of rehearsal and studio time, making their live show and their CDs marketable at the national level. High Rollers shows feature a variety of professionally done covers, fun versions of songs, such as Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” Spanish music, rock and roll classics, complemented by Andy Janowsky’s original songs.
These songs, and the band’s arrangements of them, have received significant Colorado and Four Corners radio airtime. These songs include “Colorado Girl,” “I’m Colorado” and “Play Some Hip Hop” from their “Altitude” CD, “65 Again,” “The Day that You Walked Out My Door,” and “Farmer’s Tan” off their new CD, “Kick It, Boy.” It is quality of the original music that has opened the door to play larger venues like Country Jam.
Funds generated from this event are largely used to pay for travel expenses for the Pagosa Wrestling Club. For all its advantages, Pagosa Springs is still a long way from the athletic centers of the state, and travel is necessary and expensive to reach the top levels. The funds have contributed to the experiences of many local youth, including Michael Martinez, who became a U.S.A. World Team alternate in 2007; Joe DuCharme, who was a varsity member of the Iowa Hawkeyes; Daren Hockett, now an assistant coach for Colorado Mesa State University; and Creede Wylie, who this year became the 17th state champion in school history.
If you want to support the concert as an annual event, donate what you can by bidding on baked goods at the silent auction or higher stakes at the 15-minute live auction during the band’s one break in the three-hour show.
The Pagosa Wrestling Club hopes that the quality of the event and the quality of the wrestling program will encourage people to support it through buying concessions, giving donations and participating in the auctions generously.
Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and come join the crowd at Pagosa’s Town Park this Saturday night.