If you haven't yet read this week's announcement of the 2011 Indy Music Award winners, click here and take a minute to see which local artists you and 2,499 or so other readers chose as this year's best.

OK, now that you're back, how was the weekend? Mine was spent getting sunburned for a good cause, specifically to see Texas blues legend Guitar Shorty on Saturday and future Denver rock stars the Congress on Sunday.

Guitar Shorty, I have to say, was a revelation. In our interview last week, the Indy's Chris Parker called him "the most criminally underappreciated blues artist alive today," but that still didn't prepare me for what an amazing musician he is live.

Talking to the bluesman and his girlfriend after the show, I learned that, as is all too common on the blues circuit, they've been having a run of bad luck lately. It dates back to this year's SXSW festival, where Shorty can tell you the exact time and date that a hit-and-run driver sideswiped his van, leaving it seriously dented and battle-scarred. Then, earlier this month, the van's air conditioner left this mortal coil, never a good thing when you're in the middle of a sweltering cross-country tour.

But at least one setback had a happy ending on Saturday when, well into the set, Shorty's girlfriend brought him the ring his grandmother had given him. Turns out he'd lost it shortly before going on, and she'd spent a half hour scouring the North Academy Whole Foods parking lot before finding it under a car.

"Now I can play!" he said, putting the ring back on with Green Lantern-like reverence. Given that he'd already coaxed his guitar from a whisper to a scream and all points between, it was hard to imagine him getting even better. But somehow, with his smile now totally radiant, he did.

The Congress, who played Manitou's Craft Lager Festival the next day with local indie-grass heroes Grass It Up, also had their moments, although it was disappointing that their keyboardist couldn't make the trip. The arrangements were more stripped-down than on their self-titled debut, but the band still shone on a number of original songs as well as a few covers — Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" and the Band's "The Shape I'm In" — each reflecting elements of the group's own soulful sound.

Need more opportunities to hear great music in the great outdoors? On Saturday, it's the second annual Newhoma Festival. You can read our interview with headliner Joseph Arthur here, and be sure to catch dreadlocked, Memphis-based "organic moonshine roots musician" Valerie June. In addition to the festival, she'll also be playing Venue 515 this Friday evening.

Then next Wednesday, it's back outside for the final installment in Colorado College's World Music Series, featuring the post-Bossa Nova pop of Brazilian artist Luisa Maita. The free series continues to showcase amazing music from across the globe, so don't miss out.

Also recommended: Atmosphere at Red Rocks Friday (if you missed last week's interview, find it here), hard rock/metal Indy Music Award winners Malakai (along with Inelements, who placed in the same category) at the Black Sheep Saturday; and a downtown Independent Records in-store Monday with the Cute Lepers, who then head to the Triple Nickel for a show with Dave Mansfield & the L.A.M.F's and Something Fierce.

Send news, photos and music to reverb@csindy.com; follow our updates at tinyurl.com/indyreverb.


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