Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2015
Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Saturday Highlights - Part Two
Lake Street Dive - The Sam Bush Band - Leftover Salmon
What a big day of music! As if the first installment wasn’t enough, now it was time for a Lake Street Dive/Sam Bush Band/Leftover Salmon triple whammy combo!! And, let me tell you, we were all more than ready for it. Allow me to relate to you how it all went down, shall I? Lake Street. That conservatory-trained jazz/blues/soul/rock juggernaut from Bean Town. That voice combined with that musicianship. And the seeming current “go-to non-grass” band turning up at every bluegrass festival around. And with good reason. We all enjoy a good musical palate cleanser from time to time during these genre-defined marathon events like Telluride and Lake Street Dive has proven on more than one occasion to be the perfect example of just such a sweet musical sorbet. Opening up with “Bad Self Portraits” the title track from their Rolling Stone Album of the Year, this no-nonsense ensemble blasted out of the gate with that balanced mixture of attitude and remarkable musical acumen for which they are becoming widely known. With Rachael Price’s powerful and painfully pretty trademark voice leading the charge the band segued right into a series of favorites from their catalogue including the serenely soulful yet regretful “Look At What Mistake”. “I Don’t Care About You”, a new song from their upcoming album, had a nice rock feel with a sassy swing thrown in for good measure. And, I suppose, a pretty clear message as well. Although, the lyrics from this band rarely mince words. As made obvious in their next number, “Oh Bobby (What A Spectacular Failure)” — talk about a song that’s already got a lot to say just from the title. But don’t just listen to me, take a look for yourself:
Now you’re getting the idea, right? No Lake Street show would be complete without some well-envisioned cover songs and this set’s offerings came in the form of Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” and Van Halen’s classic 80s hit “Jump”, both executed with the on-point musical technicality I have come to expect from this group. Jumping back into their own songs with a lovely and intense “Seventeen” they closed the whole thing down with a very personal favorite of this author, “You Go Down Smooth”. Suffice it to say that a Telluride Bluegrass crowd is a tough one in terms of musical experience and education as well as a dedication to the particular genre of Bluegrass (Telluride is a stretch to get to my friends). So, for a different band like Lake Street to come and slay it so readily on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Telluride, it was impressive. And I freely give them all the kudos they deserve, but there is more grass to discuss. There’s always more grass to discuss. Like some Sam Bush Band maybe?
The self-titled “Mother of Bluegrass”, Sam Bush has to be one of the genre’s all-time all-around all-stars. Popping up all over the place to guest in with incredible after amazing band after band after band as well as fronting his own group of greats, the venerable Sam is a welcome addition to any line-up and he did not disappoint. This was only my second time seeing him with his ensemble so, needless to say, I was pretty pumped. Starting out with a very free form and wandering intro, things quickly materialized and picked up into the quick pickin’, advice-laden “Play By Your Own Rules” to get things going again on the Telluride Main Stage. “Transcendental Meditation Blues” seems like an interesting name for a song…unless you are Sam Bush, that is. A mellower part of their repertoire, this song is a clever mix of bluegrass and something a bit more esoteric, all wrapped up in some savvy lyrics. They followed this with some classic Flatt and Scruggs, pickin’ and grinnin’ to “My Little Girl from Tennessee” featuring a great deal of characteristic harmonies from that golden age of grass. Another fast picker was up next, “Roll On Buddy” filled with some hot banjo riffs as well as an overall great energy displayed equally through all the musicians. A favorite of the set for me. A funky, delicious, jazzy instrumental came after followed by a Sam Bush-style love song entitled “Where’s My Love?”. Soulful and imploring, Sammy showed us in this song just the kind of breadth he posses backed by a hand-picked band that shores him up exquisitely. As if following Lake Street’s lead, The Sam Bush Band wasn’t to be outdone in terms of covers either, first absolutely nailing Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire” and then turning right around and destroying the Dead’s “Tennessee Jed”. Both barrels, both triggers. One, two. Bam. Wow. Seriously, both fantastic and both performed to the absolute high standard that is Sam Bush and The Sam Bush Band. Music of respectfully high calibre. And song after song. Finally, after a first-rate set he closed things with Dylan of all folks — “When You Gonna Wake Up” came slammin’ down with all the tour de force of the original. My friends, what a show. But, wait, there’s more? An encore you say? And what an encore, too…a Bill Monroe song but played in a fine, island reggae style. I had never heard “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in that fashion before, but I must say that I would love to hear it that way again. Sammy, fellas, Andy Thorn and Vince Herman joining in, excellence in motion. Many thanks for such a wonderful time. But that’s not all folks!! Not by a long shot, because Leftover Salmon was also there.
Festivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!! So goes the familiar call. Leftover Salmon. Main Stage. Telluride. Bring it. And, after they way they brought it at Night Grass the evening before, all eyes were on the Salmon boys to bring some of that same magic forth. And forth they broughteth it. Or something like that — the point is, Salmon blew up that nighttime Telluride stage. Opening with a Bill Payne-led “Cajun Girl” by the Oak Ridge Boys, Leftover showed instantly that they were there to make some intensely serious and seriously fun music that night. But why take my word for it, take a watch:
This was followed by a raucous and rowdy “Booboo” that got the crowd jumping and dancing and losing it to the Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass going down on the stage. This all, of course, replete with that mirthful, smile-inducing vocal shenanigannery of Mr. Vince Herman. In a festival teeming with musicians who love their jobs desperately, I challenge you to find one who seems to enjoy it more than Vince. And that charisma and charm and vitality is all given to the audience so freely and in such great amount. It kind of goes without saying: there are very few shows out there like a Salmon show. Drew Emmitt was on for a couple of numbers including “This Is the Time” which featured an incredibly tight round robin of musicianship from the entire band. We drifted back towards the exit and caught the rest of the set (which included a Dead-nod as well with “Mr. Charlie”) poised to get to Night Grass, but struck by what a great set it was. However, I say that having seen Salmon a great deal lately and knowing just how on fire they really are right now. And, between their own Night Grass set and their Main Stage set, there was no doubt of that left in any mind in Telluride, I’d wager. And certainly not my own.
Sunday Funday yet to come…