Mark Lavengood debuts in Central Colorado

In his Central Colorado debut, Mark Lavengood will share the stage with some talented Colorado friends Saturday, April 21, at The Lariat in Buena Vista. Bassist Jean-Luc Davis of the Railsplitters, mandolin player Alex Johnstone of Rapidgrass and violinist Enion Pelta-Tiller from Taarka and Elephant Revival will join Lavengood on dobro and other instruments for the 9 p.m. show.

Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Lavengood has been building a reputation over the past 13 years for his big heart, wild energy on stage and mad skills on the many instruments he plays.

“I’ve kind of lived all over the Midwest,” Lavengood said, including a stint in Chicago, after which he returned to Michigan and its rich American roots music tradition. “I really don’t have to leave Michigan to tour … but I am super excited to get back out to Colorado. There are so many good pickers there.”

Lavengood played several Front Range cities five months ago – Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Boulder and others – but said he’s “stoked” to get up into the high country this time around.

Depending on the album, Apple Music classifies Lavengood’s music as alternative folk, country or rock, reflecting the diversity of his musical influences and interests.

“I grew up with popular music – bands like the Chili Peppers and Sublime – and classic rock. … When I was in college, I started exposing myself to so much more, especially jazz and world music. Then, I heard Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for first time. … After that I explored a lot of bluegrass – Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, and Old and in the Way.”

Lavengood credits Seth Bernard, founder of Michigan’s Earthwork Music Collective, as perhaps his most important influence.

Named after Earthwork Farm, where Bernard founded the collective, “Earthwork is a collaborative musical platform” that has become an integral part of the Great Lakes area music scene.

Earthwork’s independent musicians use music to raise awareness about important social issues, mentor youth, build community and celebrate local culture. The collective works with its member musicians to release albums, support small farmers and facilitate music programs for kids.

Once Lavengood got involved with Earthwork, he “learned so much about the history of the music” and connected with a number of talented musicians like Bernard and Joe Wilson, a bassist and dobro player who performs with Jack White.

“I like to incorporate different styles into my music,” said Lavengood. “I’m even getting into the EDM scene. … I got to connect with the guys in (the Detroit hip-hop) scene. I definitely grew up with hip hop as a huge inspiration, especially the energy of their performances. The options are really limitless.”

Lavengood has toured with Bernard, including performances at the Austin, Texas, South by Southwest music festival, and has contributed to Bernard’s albums.

“As a musician, early on I just wanted to play, so I learned whatever instrument I needed to play. … When I was with Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, everyone else played all these different instruments, so just to keep up with them, I had to learn different instruments.”

In addition to being an accomplished vocalist, Lavengood plays guitar, dobro, mandolin, bass, bottleneck slide guitar, congas, drum sets and piano. Between tours, he teaches music, and for those of us who can’t be in Michigan for music lessons, he has instructional videos for dobro and slide guitar on his website.

“I’m also helping Seth Bernard” with a new album and “building a booking agency as well. … I’m just taking it organically and letting it grow incrementally.”

Lavengood is also working on new material in the studio and said he’s “excited to get the new music out there, for sure.”

Combine Lavengood’s chops with the Colorado musicians who will join him April 21, and this concert will boast about as much talent as you’re likely to see on single stage in Central Colorado.