Is "après ski" little more than a contrived, unnecessary name for an overpriced happy hour? Yes. Conceptually, is getting drunk in long underwear, snow pants and horrifically uncomfortable ski boots (assuming said drunkard is not a snowboarder) absurd, especially considering the skis and sticks that still must be hauled home on some form of public transportation? Most definitely. Come last-lift time, does this prevent even the most sapient of snow whores from indulging in the lenitive solace of a rocky cocktail or ice-cold beer at the nearest locale possible (and in the least amount of time)? No, it doesn't.
So why are five friends and I dragging ass and equipment past every bar in Keystone Village, driving two cars back to Chuck's place in Frisco, walking four blocks in bitter cold to an ice-entrenched bus stop, listening to 23 minutes of torturous teenage snowboarder-speak on the Summit Stage ride to Breckenridge Station, waiting another whatever for the Free Ride red route — all to arrive at the base of Peak 9 more than two hours after our expedition began? Because the Swing Crew is playing, and we can hardly fucking stand it.
Cliometrically speaking, with the exception of the band I played and toured with for five years, no musical force has had the sort of economic impact on my wallet or wreaked the kind of physiological havoc on my liver that the Swing Crew has. I've paid more covers, purchased more beers and been blacked-out, fall-down drunk more times while watching this band than during any other alcohol-assisted activity involving instruments in my entire life. That's why we're at the Coppertop Cafe and Bar, on the second level of the Beaver Run Resort in Breck, and why the chthonian gauntlet we just walked, drove, waited and bused through was worth every second.
For the past 29 years, the Swing Crew — which splits its year between Colorado and the Midwest, and currently performs at the Coppertop from 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday — has played its off-the-wall, interactive, booze-centric acoustic covers and originals in more bars, on more boats and buses and in the middle of more small-town streets than just about any band in the history of live music. Tonight only adds to the folkloric and convivial reverence with which I've regarded the band since early 2001. As we drink beer after surprisingly fair-priced beer, Dennis and Ryan (the lineup is pared down during winter) pull off all of their signature moves: gong-banging and toasting between almost every song; encouraging everyone brave enough to have a Swing Crew bumper sticker "installed" on their ass by another audience member's teeth; using the suggestive Belly Bongo for maximum thrusting innuendo, the hard hats for the "Wipe Out" solo, the saw and bow for "Stairway to Heaven." They sucker me into singing "Blister in the Sun," even though I'm so drunk I foozle a few lyrics. They leave no gag, antic, sing-along or stunt unperformed. It's a flawless showing.
Except not really. Or at least probably not. The details are pixelated and out of focus. I do know that I wasn't the only one too sauced for the stage. When we showed up three hours ago, Dennis and Ryan were drinking wine and draft beer, respectively. During intermission, we bought them both tequila shots. Later in the set, we delivered fresh beer fills. After the show, we lingered around the large bar room and took down a few more. Right now, we're in a Breck Village-bound bus filled with drunks on our way to go bar-hopping with Ryan. In a few hours, we'll board a Summit Stage back to Frisco and find Dennis passed out across two seats. We'll all laugh and high-five and celebrate another Swing Crew show well done. Then we'll lean our heads against the windows, or slump over the seats in front of us, or sneak shoulders from our neighbors. Sleep will come quickly.
As will dreams of our next trip to the Coppertop.