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Brian Finn and the author, Jackson Earles, in front of the Gold Hill Inn
Pickin’ Sprouts - September 2017 A ‘Gold’ Spot to see music in Colorado: The Gold Hill Inn
After having the wonderful opportunity to play at Gold Hill Inn’s Twang Fest this past July 4th, I was excited to follow up with Brian Finn, the owner of the Gold Hill Inn, about the Inn and its history. Back in 1872, when Gold Hill was a mining town, The Bluebird Lodge, which is next to the inn, was built as a hotel. In the 1920s, The Bluebirds, a group of women from Chicago, who were teachers, artists, as well as other professional women, bought the lodge as a summer mountain retreat. Because of the popularity of the lodge, they built the Gold Hill Inn as a dining and recreation hall. By the late 1950s the popularity had dwindled, and the space was empty for several years until Brian’s parents bought it, and re-opened the restaurant in 1962. His parents became good friends with a reviewer from the now defunct Rocky Mountain News who fell in love with the Gold Hill Inn. The reviewer knew The Dillards, a bluegrass band best known for appearing the Andy Griffith Show as “The Darlings,” and she brought them to the Inn. “It was always a giant party whenever The Dillards would come by,” Brian says. This sparked his parents’ interest in bluegrass. The many concerts that you see today at the Gold Hill Inn were not always a feature of the Inn. Brian says that people used to just come by and start jamming. A waiter at the inn who was Hot Rize’s tour manager at the time, and later became Alison Krauss’ tour manager, started running sound and organizing live bluegrass at the Inn, Brian tells me. On some Friday nights, a jug band would come up to the Inn and play old-time music. Nowadays when booking, Brian will look for bands that have unique sounds, good energy, and are the right size and fit for the venue and event. He books many local bands to play the Inn, however other touring bands will sometimes reach out to him when they are in the area. The Gold Hill Inn is open full time from May until the end of October, when they are open weekends only. They stop serving food right before Christmas, and finish out the year with a night before Christmas Eve concert, a holiday hoedown and a New Year’s Eve blowout. In addition to music, the Inn offers several other events, such as their very tasty three- or six-course meals and a murder mystery night at the Bluebird Lodge. The Gold Hill Inn hosts several one-day festivals throughout the year, which feature music along with a delicious meal. Brian says this tradition started more with the food in mind, and sometimes didn’t include music. They started when Brian’s parents, who are from the East Coast, wanted to replicate the clambakes they loved. Brian says that they even used to fly in fresh seafood, as one could not get it from the store, and hosted a large clambake. He says that the Inn started including organized music at the lodge and its outdoor events after bands such as Lefthand String Band (later to become Leftover Salmon) and Tim O’Brien played at the Inn. There are usually two nights a week, Friday and Sunday, when there is music at the Gold Hill Inn. Bands will usually run their own sound, but for larger events Brian usually brings in a sound guy to keep things running smoothly and sounding great. Fridays are home to a later show and a more full band while Sundays are reserved for more low-key solo or duo shows. There may be shows other nights or an evening with two acts if touring bands are coming through the area. You may even get the chance to see the next up and coming band without knowing it. Last year, just before RockyGrass 2016, Brian booked Thunder and Rain from Golden, and they decided to bring in another band to play with, The Wooks. Brian said the entire evening was incredible and filled with energy. After the show, he was talking to one of the members of the Wooks, who said that they were entered in the band competition at RockyGrass, and felt confident that they could do well; they went on to win. I check in with Bradley Morse of The Gasoline Lollipops, a band that is a big draw at the Inn and he says, “Every time we play the Gold Hill Inn we are welcomed like family from both the concert goers and the acclaimed staff. This beautifully rustic atmosphere paired with the Finn Family’s legendary hospitality is why we consider this our most cherished venue to play.” I ask Brian what was a unique thing that someone would get out of a Gold Hill concert and he says, “They really feel like big house concerts, they have a very intimate feel.” I couldn’t agree more. You should definitely head up to the Inn and sit by the fireplace and listen to music this fall. You can see who’s playing at the Gold Hill Inn and find out other information at GoldHillInn.com. On Labor Day, Gold Hill will host a Cajun Cookout with pan fried catfish and jambalaya, and several Cajun bands. Keep pickin’.