‘Degenerates of the Alley’ reunite at SteamPlant

To understand the upcoming Grant Sabin and the Juke Joint Highball show, it helps to step back to two summers ago when the Gentleman of the Road stopover tour came through Salida. Sabin, Joe Johnson and Conor Bourgal (aka Changing Colors), played three shows in the alley next to Sutty’s Downtown Records and Arts. The “Degenerates of the Alley” shows drew a crowd.

“Every show was packed to the street,” Johnson said. Musicians from the Gentleman of the Road made surprise appearances, and at one point the lead singer of Foster the People “stole the mic” and started making up lyrics. “It was a wild party.”

Sabin said the alley shows were his all-time favorite. So obviously, they couldn’t wait to do it again. With the help of Lindsay Sutton, owner of Sutty’s Downtown Records and Arts, they booked the SteamPlant for a repeat performance of the “Degenerates.” Sutton and Johnson’s friendship goes back to their teen years. “We used to do underage drinking together,” he said. Nailing down a date proved difficult, but everyone’s schedules aligned on Aug. 11.

This show is a stop on Sabin’s album-release tour for Bourbon and Milk. Sabin said Johnson will be on tour for the duration, either as a tour-mate or in the band.

Johnson, the official manager of this show, explained the general layout of the evening. “I’ll open with some stories, get some chuckles. Conor will come out and break everyone’s hearts for a bit, and then Grant will come out and put it all back together and we’ll boogie.”

When Sabin and Johnson play in their band, Juke Joint Highball, they play “hill country” music. Johnson explained the genre as a variation on Delta blues. “It’s less about guitar solos and more about the rhythm – the hypnotic boogie.” And he joked that the genre involves a lot more trucker hats. “Hill country makes you want to dance a lot. It lends itself to a good time,” he added.

Sabin explained the genre as more “blue collar” than Chicago blues.

Sabin also performs all the Juke Joint Highball songs in his solo act. In Johnson’s solo career, his music has more of a “country Americana vibe” with songs that are “long, drawn-out stories.” Changing Colors (Bourgal) will play modern folk music. “Connor is the best modern folk artist in Colorado,” Johnson said.

In true degenerate fashion, this show comes with an established theme: gold. Also, according to Bourgal, the unofficial theme is “bourbon and milk.” In addition to being the title of Sabin’s album, it is also a (possibly grotesque?) mixed drink and “a code for mischief.”

Sabin promised he’d comply with the gold party theme.

Johnson said he’d go to Cripple Creek and try to mine for gold.

Bourgal explained that’s because Johnson’s “traditional folk.” Whereas being a modern folk artist, Bourgal will likely swing into Safeway on his way to the event and pick up a gold bracelet.

This show is presented by Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and Sutty’s Downtown Records and Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the SteamPlant, Wood’s and Sutty’s for $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Sutton said, “Watching Grant and the Highball is like stumbling into some underground party in the Mississippi Delta you were definitely not invited to but are forever thankful you crashed (and didn’t get killed).”