WinterWonderGrass 2015

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker


Sunday - February 22nd

WonderGrass Allstars - Jeff Austin Band - Leftover Salmon

Sunday Funday!!  Never miss a Sunday show, right?  Or shows as the case may be.  And Sunday at WonderGrass was not going to be one to disappoint.  The first music we caught was the WonderGrass Allstars Band helmed by none other than the great Mr. Tyler Grant.  As soon as I heard them start thrashing away at some old school, grassy, fast pickin’ I was instantly glad they’d be getting three ‘tweener sets rather than two like the previous days.  Old school as in “Blue Ridge Mountain Cabin” old school — the Allstars led early with a very solid version of this standard.  Such a great energy and depth of tradition to bring to the Sunday WWG experience…not many other bands at the fest were covering Bill Monroe’s “On and On” that’s for sure.  All in all, I looked forward to coming back to hear the Allstars between main stage acts more and more as the day went on.  Bravo to Tyler and the whole band!!  

Then it was back to the main stage where the Jeff Austin Band was set to hit WinterWonderGrass like a bluegrass freight train.  This was my first time seeing J.A.B. so I was pretty excited to see just what the former YMSB frontman and his new ensemble had to offer…and I wasn’t headed for a letdown, either.  As fate would have it, all of us needed that fire from the stage as the winter wind had picked up once more, chilling the bones and blowing the snow over our heads right into the faces of the musicians onstage.  Again, it must be said how incredible all the WWG performers are to withstand and brave such harsh conditions in order to give us some of the best music on the Earth — so much gratitude and thanks!!  Back to Jeff’s Band…which appeared to me to be precisely the kind of band a man like Mr. Austin would form to back him after departing Yonder.  The instrumentation is the same as YMSB, however, there was an overall different feel to the group, one of more intensity, maybe?  The term I would use, as I would describe Jeff himself, would be:  delightfully manic musical energy.  Meaning, these boys could straight pick…and FAST!!  Like with Todd Snider’s “Sideshow Blues” for example — quick, clean, dirty, and bringing the heat!  And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the juggernaut banjo man that is Danny Barnes — what a helluva combination we have in Barnes and Austin!!!  So glad these two found there way into a common project!  In addition to being directly on-point with his music, Jeff was also brimming with stage presence and charisma which he deftly shared with the grateful Colorado crowd.  The man was charming and his band is badass bluegrass done right…what more could a person want?

After swinging through the Pickin’ Perch to catch some more WWG Allstars and to warm the frigid carcass a bit, we headed back out into the icy, biting winds to put a little polyethnic cajun slamgrass into our ears and lives with Leftover Salmon.  The positive energies and joyous vibes these fellas radiate are just incredible — truly it is so easy to see just how much these guys LOVE their jobs and that makes them extra fun to see live.  And that the Salmon boys were joined by Sam Bush on fiddle and electric mando for their entire set made the WWG 2015 final performance all the grassier and grittier!  The setlist vacillated between old favorites like “Eliza” to this smoking hot Andy Thorn banjo tune that offered everyone an opportunity to showcase their insane skills, something the members of this band have in spades.  Besides, Salmon is just so damn fun to watch!!  Andy was wearing a crazy furry buffalo hat with horns!  And there was a hilarious moment between Drew Emmitt and Sam Bush between songs — Drew held his hands up to Sam motioning that they were really cold and then Sam turned around and bent over, apparently offering Drew a warm place to put them.  Hilarious!!  Love that Sam guy!!  Suffice it to say, WWG was on-point when they chose to put Leftover Salmon in as the 2015 closer.  

So, what did I think of WWG, hmmm??  Honestly, just an incredible job all around and one marvelous little mountain bluegrass festival!!  I will definitely be coming back to Avon to see if the lightning that is this madness can strike me again…I certainly hope it does.  And I have no doubts that it will.  Many thanks again and always to the performers, staff, volunteers, the town of Avon, and everyone else who had a hand in making this year’s WinterWonderGrass so very special!!  See you around the bend!