Bluegrass Bands Rally for Musician Injured at Cherry Creek Reservoir

Brian Jung's friends play some tunes for him outside of Craig Hospital.
Brian Jung's friends play some tunes for him outside of Craig Hospital. Kristin Demboski
On an August afternoon, some friends were relaxing and listening to music from a pontoon on the reservoir at Cherry Creek State Park when musician Brian Jung dove into shallow water and hit his head against the hard bottom, severely damaging several vertebrae in his back.

“I thought I was done,” says Jung, from the Craig Hospital in Englewood. “I was underwater just thinking that all I had to do was turn over, and I couldn’t do it. All I had to do was kick one leg, and I couldn’t kick one leg. It felt like a lifetime of being in the water upside down.”

Luckily, his friend Chris Spurlock had watched Jung dive and pulled him from the water within seconds. They rushed him to the hospital, where he underwent an eight-hour operation to remove and replace two spinal vertebrae as well as to insert twelve screws to fuse and support his back. In the waiting room, two of Jung’s close friends, Megan Bobay and Jennifer Horn, began thinking about the path forward.

“We were trying to soak in the severity of the situation, to think of ways that we could assist in bringing everybody together, and to find a way to raise money for all the expenses that Brian and his girlfriend were about to incur,” says Bobay.

Given that Jung and his friends are all musicians or music lovers, they decided to plan a benefit concert on November 5 at Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple.

“Music has been an important all-around aspect of my life,” says Jung. “I‘ve been a guitarist for twenty years. I’ve played a lot of folk music. I was the drummer in a local rock band. I graduated from CU Denver with a music business degree. You know, music is something that I hold really dear. I spend more time going to concerts than I do anything else.”

Though Jung likes all kinds of music, the benefit will focus on bluegrass music, a genre that he’s come to especially appreciate during the past several years. The lineup includes an extensive list of local string bands, including Modern Whiskey Market, the Sweet Lillies, Strung High String Band, the Lonesome Days, Bill McKay's True Blue Band and more. Spurlock, the guy who pulled Jung out of the water, is also the mandolin player for Strung High String Band.

“We have a really good bluegrass family here on the Front Range,” says Spurlock. “We’re all kind of connected through events like Telluride Bluegrass, RockyGrass, or any other events here in town. The same people are usually involved every time, and that’s where some of our best friendships have been made.”

The money raised at the benefit will go toward alterations to make Jung’s house wheelchair-accessible as well as to pay for his medical expenses for rehabilitation, which have reached $3,000 per day, out of pocket, despite his health insurance plan. Jung’s friends and family have already raised a sizable portion of their $100,000 goal in a YouCaring campaign. Larger national artists, including Dispatch, Leftover Salmon and Rhiannon Giddens, have donated items such as signed merch and concert tickets for a silent auction that will be held at the benefit.

Chris Phair, mandolin player and vocalist for Modern Whiskey Market, is hoping that the festival will raise the remainder of the money needed. Above all, though, he’s concerned for Jung’s recovery.

“To be honest, what I have been really looking forward to the most is seeing my friend be able to move his hand and, hopefully, to be walking again soon,” says Phair. “[Jung] is one of the nicest people I know. I want to do anything I can to help him move along.”

Currently, Jung has recovered movement in his arms, but he still lacks feeling in his fingers and legs. He hopes to be able to play music again soon. Despite the long road to recovery ahead, he’s been amazed by the outpouring of support he’s received.

“One of the things that I’ve seen through this injury is just how lucky I really am for the people I have behind me,” says Jung. “It’s overwhelming, and it really, truly feels like I’m not the only one dealing with the injury or going through this rehab. It feels like there are a thousand people behind me.”

We Got Your Back, Brian: Bluegrass Benefit Concert, Sunday, November 5, Be on Key Psychedelic Ripple, 1700 Logan Street, $15 suggested donation.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall