When setting out their goals for 2019, the members of the nine-piece soul band The Burroughs knew they wanted to do something special. Each year, at the end of August, they would put on a Halloween show – one year dressing up as Nintendo characters and another taking on the Space Jam soundtrack. This time around, they wanted to challenge themselves as musicians and showmen, which led them to paying homage to the Woodstock music festival.
“It’s the most ambitious set we’ve ever had. We literally have over thirty songs we’re going to pack into ninety minutes. It’s going to be crazy,” says lead vocalist Johnny Burroughs about the three nights of music across Colorado they are calling The Burroughs Celebrate Woodstock. “We’ve stuck to songs strictly played at Woodstock. There were so many good artists there that this set is going to be insane. It’s one of the most intense musical undertakings we’ve ever tried.” They open the series of shows October 24, at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Avon. That's followed by a concert on October 25 at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox in Denver and another on October 26 at Washington's in Fort Collins.
The Burroughs began in 2012 in Greeley, Colorado, by Burroughs and a group of University of Northern Colorado jazz school students. Despite not having the same formal musical education as his peers, Burroughs's raw talent and musicality made him the focal point of the group. Starting out as a pretty standard wedding band, the Burroughs gradually evolved musically, and as the scope of their music grew, so did their audience.
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While several musicians have come and gone from the Burroughs lineup, a core group has stayed, participating in the release of two EPs, a few singles, and the live album Sweaty Greeley Soul in 2015. Then at the beginning of 2018, they came into their own when they released the full-length album Got to Feel. Recorded at Mighty Fine Productions with Colin Bricker, Got to Feel is a vibrant soul record that showed the band's music could stand alone.
“It’s awesome that any challenge we throw out to the band, they step up to the plate and knock it out of the park,” says alto saxophonist and manager Briana Harris.
The bandmates spent the rest of 2018 supporting the release, which included a tour in Alaska and a busy summer of festival gigs; then in 2019, they shifted gears. They stepped back from frequently playing shows and recorded two singles with Color Red, the Denver-based music collective and label, then restructured their management.
“We’ve had the privilege of having some great mentors connect with us this year, and we’ve gotten some great advise in the industry, and one of the things we hadn’t really taken advantage of was reaching out to people we want to work with. Our whole strategy this year has been to not be afraid to ask for what we want,” says Harris.
While the Burroughs are not playing as many shows this season, the members themselves are not ones to slow down. Drummer/vocalist Mary Claxton, bassist Brian Claxton, and baritone saxophonist Hayden Farr released an album under the name Trash Cat, Burroughs released a solo album, and Harris quit her full-time job to start her own business.
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“Most people in the band have had big professional moves in their careers this year," says Harris. "I think the Burroughs has been the catalyst to give me confidence to go kick ass in a lot of arenas."
Looking forward to The Burroughs Celebrate Woodstock, the bandmates see the show as a personal challenge, which is what they look for now in their music.
"I have no interest in doing a cover show. What I have an interest in is taking the spirit of the music and putting it through the Burroughs filter," says Burroughs. "We’ve just been nose to the grindstone putting together this set. At our practices we’ve been making sure that what we come out with is the best show we’ve ever done, hands down.”
The Burroughs Celebrate Woodstock, supported by Retrofette, takes place at 9 p.m. Friday October 25, at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, 1215 20th Street. Tickets are $14 to $28 and available at Ophelia's website.