The Backyard Theater in downtown Moab is one of the first live venues in the West to reopen since the pandemic-induced lockdown eased. It has provided “some much-needed musical relief to a crisis-weary population,” said musician and co-owner Sand Sheff. Tuesdays feature the owners of the Backyard Theater, Sand and Sunnie Sheff, playing old country favorites and originals from Sand’s 15 studio albums.
The couple began performing together in 2007, with Sunnie taking over bass duties just a few days after learning how to play on a borrowed instrument.
“Her first show was in front of 200 people at the Strater Theater in Durango,” Sheff recalls. “They were not easy songs, either. She rocked it!”
When the couple moved to San Marcos, Texas for three years in 2008, the duo began performing at a wide variety of roadhouses and biker joints.
“I would have lots of dangerous looking men come up and say: ‘C’mon. Let the girl sing,” so I began to insist that Sunnie start singing more for my own personal safety, [and] she did a great job.”
The couple formed the core of the Armadillo Clean Orchestra, which backed the musical comedy “Texcentric Radio Hour” that Sheff wrote for the Esthers Follies Theater, where he worked as a writer and opening act.
“They called him Mr. Texas,” Sunnie recalls of their nearly three-year run.
At the dollar beer night roadhouses, the duo began performing requests together, going A to Z through the musical alphabet, Allman Brothers to ZZ Top. This earned them more than a few worn-out dollar bills over the last decade. Returning to Moab in 2011, their act became a fixture at the restaurants such as the old Buck’s/Atomic Restaurant, Red Cliffs Lodge and the Blubar.
Now, after having performed literally hundreds of gigs, they sing at the open air oasis of the Backyard Theater, where they perform every Tuesday night.
Wednesdays at the BYT features Quicksand Soup with free bluegrass night, and Thursday is Saints and Sinners with gospel and country music. This Friday features Rogue Assets and Juniper Drive headlines the Saturday Show. All shows are free and start at 8 p.m. The Moab Backyard Theater is located at 56 West 100 South in Moab, just behind Zax.
“We’ll see you there!” said Sand.