Like the prospectors of the Colorado Gold Rush who flocked to Pike’s Peak in search of precious metals, one of our best friends, Ben, packed up his belongings and moved from Central Massachusetts to Colorado Springs. A modern-day “fifty-niner,” Ben is in search of his own treasure, and he relocated to pursue his passion and devote more time to his band Comrades, who are signed to Facedown Records and reached the Billboard charts last year.
Ash and I had the opportunity to make a visit to Colorado Springs in August, where Ben drove us all around the area in his Volvo 240 to witness some of the most spectacular views of the created world I have ever seen. The landscape surrounding Colorado Springs is “other worldly.” No matter where you are, you cannot escape stark and towering mountain peaks that seem to go on forever into the horizon. “Pike’s Peak or Bust,” was the motto of the fifty-niners over a half century ago, and we took a day to follow their path behind Pike’s, through Cripple Creek’s ghost-like miner towns, and down through Phantom Canyon Road.
Ben and us with the Rockies at our backs
Phantom Canyon was carved out by the Eight Mile Creek, and the miners took advantage of this natural path to transport gold and supplies in and out of the Cripple Creek mining area. Skilled engineers designed a rail bed that was laid through the narrow, winding pass, but at the turn of the last century, as the post-gold rush economy slowed to a grinding stop, the rail line was closed. Today Phantom Canyon is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern due to the presence of certain flora. While the dirt rail bed is still accessible to motor vehicles, Phantom Canyon is one of the last roadless canyons in Northern Colorado. The protection and lack of pavement have allowed this area to remain quiet, remote, and largely undisturbed.
In Victor, the last mining town before entering Phantom Canyon
The three of us did not enter the Canyon in search of gold, but we were astonished at the beauty and solitude we found. Toward the end of the pass, we came upon tunnels once blasted through rock walls to allow the passage of the trains. Struck by the natural reverb, we all left the car and got to singing. It wasn’t long before Ben shot the following video of us performing “Gold” with only our voices enhanced by the tunnel walls.
“Bear” traversing Phantom Canyon Road
“Gold” is one of our favorite tracks off of our debut album, Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Going. Ash found early inspiration for the song in the reverberating sanctuary walls of an old brown-stone church. In the recorded version, we sought to capture that sense of spaciousness while adding some larger instrumentation, including Ben’s drums. That day in Phantom Canyon, the song was stripped to its simplest instrumentation – only our voices resounding in the sanctuary of the canyon tunnel’s rock walls.