Long Hair, Don’t Care, Guitars: Air

Rusty Frank

Tuesday, February 6, 2024 | Number of views (1894)


Tuesday night at Durango's Starlight Lounge was a kaleidoscope of locals and visitors alike dressed up in free-flowing tops and high-waisted apple bottom pants, tightly packed into a space buzzing with anticipation. As a newcomer to Durango, I was about to experience my first-ever Snowdown event: a 21+ ‘Long Hair Air Guitar Contest.’

What I walked into was a spectacle I was unprepared for, yet instantly mesmerized by: a group calling themselves CO-OH, decked out in tie-dye and tassels, delivering a full nine-minute, four-piece performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s beloved “Free Bird.” For the uninitiated, this is a notoriously difficult piece to perform on the air guitar, known for its complex riffs and long solos. 

CO-OH features both Durango locals and visiting friends from Ohio. Their drummer, who Kade said was a seasoned musician, executed his part brilliantly, only this time using drink straws instead of drumsticks. The bandmates rounded out an electrifying performance by smashing their air guitars on the ground to raucous applause.

After the performance, I caught up with lead guitarist, Marc Kade, to get the rundown on his act and discover what the event meant to him. Kade's enthusiasm for the festival was palpable, a sentiment reflected in his luscious golden locks that, admittedly, made me feel a tad underdressed.  But pointing this out to him was only met with a dry chuckle. 

“It's not even about the dress,” he said. “Come with the right attitude, and have a great time. That's what we love. We meet new people. We party with people that we may or may not ever see again too, but we've had the best times. Sometimes in this bar, sometimes 11th Street, sometimes somewhere else. Always a great time.”

Marc said he and his wife Jenna moved here two and a half years ago, marking this as their third Snowdown celebration. Their friends, Jeremy and Deana, came all the way out from Ohio, forming the latter half of their band’s name. It’s not unusual to see a lot of new faces at Snowdown. Kade said he’s made friends who were visiting the week-long festival from Texas and New Mexico, and now they meet up every year for drinks and partying.

Pictured from left to right: Deana, Jeremy, Marc, and Jenna of CO-OH.

For Kade, doing Snowdown properly also requires some careful planning. 

“We kind of get started between Wednesday and Friday of the second week,” he said. “We're doing Family Feud tomorrow… then it’s full-go all Thursday, from start to finish.”

His excitement surrounding the weekend's itinerary was infectious. It's a feeling that’s echoed by the festival's wide-ranging list of activities. The upcoming week features events for all ages, encompassing everything from Roller Races to Butt…Darts? I don’t know, but there’s definitely something for everyone!

While we chatted outside on the patio, the music inside played on, with a setlist featuring some familiar favorites, including Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Barbie Girl (Metal Cover).” But I was still riding the high from “Free Bird.”

Kade said he chose the song in honor of his friend Tom, a mostly reserved banker type, who once pioneered the piece on the air guitar.

 “This song came on the radio,” Kade recalled. “Which came on, like, every day, and he just said, 'screw it.' Got up from his office desk chair and did a complete air guitar as we all sat there in awe, and that was the big inspiration. Already a great song, but probably the greatest ever because of him.”

As Durango turned on and tuned in, the hippies had good reason for bringing it their all this year. The advertisement on the Snowdown Festival’s event page touted a $50 bar tab for the first place winner, $25 for second place, and a free drink for third. In addition to these prizes, the top three contestants also walked away with their own inflatable air guitars—gold, silver, and purple, respectively—unfortunately, they ran out of bronze.

Following the final performance of the evening, winners were chosen by audience applause and the vibe shifted to an open mic jam session, with real live strings! Although CO-OH’s rendition of “Free Bird” won first place in my heart, unfortunately they lost the third place tie breaker and were not among the night’s winners. 

While the prizes were undoubtedly a highlight, the lasting impression was not just of the music and competition, but of the sense of camaraderie it fostered.

As the night drew to a close with the eclectic mix of music and laughter lingering in the air, it was clear that Snowdown is more than just a festival. It's a vibrant expression of Durango's spirit, a place where people can come together to celebrate the joy of music and community.

A member of local air band Geese People absolutely ate a song by Spacehog, leaving no crumbs.




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