Chris Robinson on Playing in Denver, "the Happiest City in the World"

When the Black Crowes went on hiatus in 2011, frontman Chris Robinson formed his own group, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and he equated his new project to building a temple brick by brick. “In our case, our temple is one of sound and experience, so every show is another brick into what we’re trying to build,” Robinson says.

While constructing that psychedelic temple of rock over the past four years, CRB has made numerous trips to Colorado, including two New Year’s Eve runs at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, and the band will return for another two-night stint at the venue on Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31. Last year, CRB played three sets a night, and Robinson says they like to play something weird or cool when it turns midnight. He adds that he’ll be stoked to be back in Denver, which he dubs “the happiest city in the world.”

“I think we’re really blessed of what people like in Colorado in terms of music and stuff,” Robinson says. “We wouldn’t be coming if people [weren’t coming to the shows]. I’ve always loved Colorado and spent a lot of time there in my life. So for us, it’s just super-special to have a little scene going in Denver and to have people who are interested in the band in Colorado, I mean, as long as that’s there for us.”

When he comes to Denver, Robinson (who moved from Los Angeles to Marin County last summer) says he loves going out in Denver because “people, all ages of people, they choose to go see live music as their main source of entertainment or fun or communal action or whatever. It’s like, ‘Let's go see bands.’”

After CRB played at NedFest in Nederland last August, Robinson says, the bandmembers returned to Denver, where they were spending the night and flying out the next day.

“Worship My Organ was playing with Joe Russo and Marco, and we ran down there to their show, and it’s packed,” Robinson remembers. “Then we went to see the Congress at the Other Side at Cervantes'. And it was packed, and everyone was having a blast, and the music was great. And that was after our show, you know what I mean? It’s kind of rad.”

Before coming to Denver with CRB, Robinson says the Black Crowes shows at the Fillmore Auditorium were “awesome times” and adds that headlining Red Rocks Amphitheatre was a big deal, as well. But while the Black Crowes worked in a rock-and-roll setting, CRB is something else, more rooted in psychedelic rock.

“It’s always a cool situation to be in that we’ve built a scene, and we’re building a scene and we’re building,” Robinson says. “I guess [you could] call it, like, a culture with our mythology and our stories and stuff, without having to lean on anything to do with the Black Crowes, really.”

With CRB, there might be more freedom than with the Black Crowes, but, as Robinson notes, "freedom also means that we sleep on the bus every night — that we work hard to make it happen for everyone.”

The band also includes guitarist Neal Casal, who’s worked with Ryan Adams, keyboardist Adam McDougall, who toured with the Black Crowes, bassist Mark Dutton and drummer Tony Leone, who replaced George Sluppick last January. Robinson says the greatest progression for CRB happened over the last year, since Leone joined the group. They knew they didn’t want to make a new album yet, and so they decided to tour for another year, playing more than a hundred shows and letting Leone get immersed in the group’s material.

Robinson says that by the time the band finished up shows from October to two sold-out shows earlier this month at the Fillmore in San Francisco, they were exactly where they wanted to be musically. After wrapping up the New Year’s Eve shows in Denver, CRB will play Park City, Utah, plus three more Colorado dates. The band heads to Stinson Beach in Marin County to start recording a new album in early January, and in February, CRB heads out on its first European tour.

Whether playing a smaller venue or a bigger one, Robinson says it doesn’t make any difference.

“It’s what you’re playing and who you’re playing with that really makes a difference,” he says. “So in that case, I understand that no matter what scale/size place or what’s going on, to be able to do something that you love and you’re obsessed with for two decades and a half is just a gift. It’s something to be humble in the tradition that we get to work in, at least for me. No matter what, if there’s a hundred people, a thousand people or ten thousand people, it’s still a unique opportunity.”

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon