This Elko, Nevada, showcase may just be the evolutionary kick-in-the-chinks cowboy music needs.
For the last six years, a growing cowboy music event has been taking place in Elko, Nevada, and it’s not the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The show was held at the venerable Star Hotel— a “home away from home” for Basque herders when it opened in 1910. February 1st through the 3rd of this year, the Star was home for The Outside Circle Show, with the gracious help of its owner, Scotty Ygoa. The show is an emerging-artists showcase for contemporary cowboy singer/songwriters and their supporters and fans.
Described as “Orchestrated Chaos at its Finest,” the show is the work of primarily two people; Justin Reichert and Nicole Grady, both of Colorado and Kansas depending on the time of year it is and where they are working. The idea for the show was Reichert’s and it came out of a need he saw that was not being addressed by existing cowboy culture events.
It all started in 1992, when he first came to see the Gathering in Elko and it had such a positive effect on him, he moved to the area literally weeks later and started cowboying in the region. He went back to the Gathering several years later for its 25th anniversary and felt something was very different— frankly, very wrong. Like any annual genre event, repetition if not watched carefully, can lead to a loss of freshness, authenticity and spontaneity. For Reichert, the event had not remained true to its origins of celebrating the authentic, horseback culture from which it emerged in 1985.
He thought about it for quite a while and in 2014, he went about to create something that would reflect the authentic music and ways of the cowboys he worked with and respected. At first, he did it with whatever money and help he could scrounge together. It was small, but importantly, the people that mattered in his life took notice and The Outside Circle Show was born.
Several years into the show’s evolution, his friend, Nicole Grady came aboard to help promote and manage aspects of the growing event. She had heard about it after the first year’s show. “I became involved a couple of years ago,” she says, “figuring I could help promote and manage some of the things involved.”
The Outside Circle Show is truly a grass-roots operation. It has no website and communicates through social media, printed posters and word of mouth. “We have found,” Nicole continues, “that there are some pretty passionate people out there who love this music and they have helped us in so many ways to keep this thing growing and helping the artists. Whether it’s money for hotel rooms, food, whatever— our audience cares about the performers and steps up. It’s very touching really.”
The artists who perform come to Reichert’s attention from all over, but most of them would not have had the opportunity to appear on the Gathering’s stage, as the emphasis there seems to stress larger audience recognition and drawing power. “We think of our show as a place where friends and like-minded people can come and see authenticity and freshness,” explains Reichert. “I founded the show six years ago as I was really paying attention to cowboy music. It isn’t always easy to find the kind of music and artists I’m looking for, and I have found myself in a few really sketchy clubs. But talent is where you find it and I have come across some really good and deserving artists in what I call the dark recesses of the West.”
Performers agree, even seasoned performers like singer/songwriter Mick Beck.
“I have played at both the Outside Circle and the Gathering over the years,” Beck says. “The Outside Circle has a very organic feel and there is a real similarity to the cowboy culture and the surf culture. They both are very creative and Justin has been able to find a very unique group of artists. I like the energy and the diversity. It’s something the culture needs.”
The venue is unique and is well attended according to Beck.
“The Star is Elko and it has the perfect vibe for what the show is about,” he says. “There’s dancing and people milling around seeing friends. It has an organic feel and seems to be taking us to a new level of expression, of how many young people are making a horseback living today. Cowboy music has always been about storytelling and the show proves it still is. It’s a nice kick in the butt for the genre.”
It’s clear the Outside Circle Show has a true and loyal following. It’s a following committed to the preservation and progression of the cowboy arts in all their forms. To help raise funds for the artists, Reichert and Grady put together an online auction to help pay artists and assist with expenses. Both agree it was a success.
“It really came together and we had great items donated, many of which came from the artisans that made them, as well as a great turnout on the bidding side,” explains Nicole.
Loyal show attendee Kent Reeves enjoys the show’s feel – as well as the audience diversity. Reeves is a wildlife biologist, packer and self-described holistic renegade.
“If I had to describe the scene at the show, it’s full of ‘alt-laws,’ he says with a grin. “The West is changing and the show and its audience reflect changing attitudes, especially regarding range management and stewardship, which are important to the ranching culture,” he continues. “The people involved know we have to take care of where we work and live. There is an awareness and a creative process that this music is evolving that really reflects more of a culture of the land.”
For this year’s show, Reichert lined up a number of talented, independent musicians including Shandee Allen, Ira G., Catlin Martin, Antonio Marquez, Wampus Cat Matt & Rachel Wilson, Forrest Mackey, Pete Reinholtz, Caleb Allemand, Luke Darling and Shane Queener. Reichert performed as well. The show started at 10:00 pm on February 1st and ended at 3:00 am, February 3rd. By all accounts, it fulfilled Reichert’s desire to create a tableau of the evolving and authentic music culture of the West. Of the show, he says simply, “This is who we are, and this is what we do.”