WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Peter Rowan & Friends - Fruition - Greensky Bluegrass

    Saturday was here and with it another gorgeous day in Avon, CO.  The weather was mild for the time of year to say the least and many folks weren’t even wearing coats, myself included.  Crazy to think a hoodie will keep you warm in the middle of winter in the Rockies.  Well, heat waves are heat waves.  It was nice to have a reprieve from all the scarves and gloves and hats and big winter coats of the nighttime.  Those would be back around soon enough, however.  After grabbing some very necessary and very delectable food from the vendors at the back, we made our way around to the various tents taking in as much music as possible throughout the afternoon.  Here are the highlights from the main stage for you, my friends.

    As I stated in my earlier WonderGrass reviews, it was quite the honor and gift to have Mr. Peter Rowan present and in such wonderful form.  As such, the Peter Rowan & Friends on the bill promised to be rife with excellent music and teeming with talent.  And the promise was kept, believe-you-me.  Jay Starling (Love Canon), Tyler Thompson(Fruition), Peter Knight (Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band), and Tyler Grant (The Grant Farm) turned out to be Peter’s friends for the afternoon set.  And how happy we were that was the case!  What a powerhouse group of musicians!  We were certainly in for some special times to come in the very near future.  Peter chose “Wild Horses” as the first selection for the ensemble.  His voice sounding as clear and pure as the day he started singing, Mr. Rowan crooned gently and sweetly to the audience in only the way that he can.  Jay’s dobro was the perfect counterpoint to Peter’s voice, that distinctive sound buoying up the lyrics as Jay pulled note after soft and angelic note from his instrument.  An auspicious start to a wonderful set of songs.  Time to get the crowd a-singing along!!  Good ol’ “Midnight Moonlight”, that trusted friend, was next in line.  Mr. Rowan had a particularly lovely guitar solo during which Tyler Grant made his entrance.  Classy stuff, my friends.  And more of that epic dobro from Mr. Starling.  The crowd was certainly pleased with this one as I counted the smiles and number of mouths singing the words.  Impossible to count them all.  Not surprising in the slightest given the stellar nature of what was occurring on the stage.  A big, juicy, lengthy island medley came after in the form of “Johnny Too Bad” > “Jamaica Farewell” > “No Woman, No Cry” — a reggae-inspired feast for the ears this one had us singing along again and feeling the warmth of the Caribbean on our faces amidst the snow-covered Colorado mountains.  And what a wonderful feeling that was, too.  Luckily, we captured that very 15 minutes on film for you.  Please enjoy: 

Pretty epic stuff, huh?  Precisely.  Nothing like that Peter Rowan, right?  Nothing, indeed.  “Doc Watson Morning” is a song that Peter wrote for Doc himself, a story of Watson’s musical life and influence in song.  A serenely mild and beautiful piece, this one tugs a bit at the heart strings, as intended, I’m sure.  “I pick up my old guitar and I start to play…cause it's a Doc Watson mornin' D-18 guitar pickin' kinda day.”  Sounds like a great way to spend a morning to me.  “Panama Red” followed “Doc” and proved to be exactly what you’d expect from this group:  spectacular.  Another tried and true song of the catalogue, this one never fails to get the crowd a-going.  Grant was pure excellence on the guitar with Peter’s solid bass line keeping things level unit the very end.  Same goes for Thompson’s beats all set — solid as a rock.  A marvelous group of musicians for Peter to play with.  They really sounded tight and polished.  And, as always, any opportunity to see Mr. Rowan play is one that a person should take, hands down.  Sincerely hope that he returns to WWG next year!  Bravi, gents!

Peter Rowan & Friends

Peter Rowan & Friends

    Fruition, that whack ado walloping wonderment from Portland, were up next on the WinterWonderGrass main stage.  Suffice it to say, I am a rather big fan of this band.  And there are so many reasons I should be, too.  Electric hot instrumental playing on behalf of all members.  Lightning intensity in each and every song.  A robust and varied sound given the high level of multi-instrumentalism in the group.  So many good things in one, crazy fun package.  And that’s what Fruition really is at heart:  pure fun.  Pure musical genius combined with fun.  And heaps of talent and skill.  And all of them were ready to tear it completely limb-from-limb for us that evening.  Jay Cobb Anderson was up to the mic to lend his wonderfully unique voice for the first song, “Git Along”.  Of course, the delightful harmonies that characterize this band also make for an incredible feast for the ears, as made apparent in this one.  And we were off and running into the set!  “Blue Light” was next on the docket, dark and mysterious and brooding.  Kellen Asebroek provided lead vocals on this song perfectly fitting into the atmosphere of the piece.  I really do love all the voices of the three main vocalists in the band (Mimi Naja being the third).  Makes for an eclectic and very entertaining act.  Nice, deep and dusky bass work from Jeff Leonard here, too.  Really kept the driving motion throughout this song.  Mimi grabbed the mic for “Lay Down Blues” which came after.  Lots of delicious guitar from Jay in it from start to finish — really kept a fantastic rock’n’roll feel.  And the nighttime was the right time again as we danced in the cooling night air.  Mimi just nailed the vocals, too…as she always does.  I didn't see a single person who wasn’t dancing madly about as I looked around during “Lay Down”.  And I wasn’t the least bit surprised.  I know I was dancing madly about as well!!  Then my absolute current favorite song by Fruition came next:  “There She Was”.  In talking with Kellen late night at the Westin Hotel lobby one early morning he explained that, after going to a Motet show he wanted to write a funk song.  He said that he took a song he was working on, retooled it, and, well, “There She Was” so to speak.  And what a funk song it is!!  Funky and catchy and fabulous and charmingly crack-like this song has so much right going on with it.  I challenge you to not have this song in your head for days after hearing it.  Hell, Kellen said even he has it on the brain all the time.  You know it must be quite the catchy one, if that’s the case, right?  Always so happy to hear them play this song.  Thank you so much to Kellen for writing it and to the band for playing it so very well!!  A bit later in the set Tyler Thompson and Jeff Leonard set the tone in a mean style on the drums and bass, respectively, for the intro to “I Don’t Mind”.  Groovy and gritty, when Jay joined in on guitar, the texture took flight into a brazen rock song with Mimi destroying the lead vocals.  “I just keep moving.  I might be losing, but I don’t mind.”  Not a bad message of perseverance, eh?  Kicking things back up to ‘Ludicrous Speed’ Fruition thrashed out this next song in such delightful ways!  Crazy fast pickin’ and singing to boot, if you dig on wicked guitar riffs accompanied by mad, mad mando playing all shored up by some badass drums and baller bass, then you’d love “Never Again”.  And they really wailed this one out, too…inspiring dancing galore down on the ground before the stage.  Hard to be cold when the music is so very hot.  Succinctly fun times all around I have no doubts.  Jumping a bit ahead in the setlist we were all treated to a magma-hot “Fire” with none other than the Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) guesting in on his mighty banjo and the one and only Mr. Larry Keel on guitar.  And…guess what?  We’ve got it for you right here — hope you enjoy!!! 

Enjoyed it, right?  How couldn’t you?  That’s some seriously wonderful music coming at you like a velvet hammer.  Andy stayed out with the Portland crew for another, this time “I Can’t Stop”, Jay taking the lead with that incredible vibrant voice of his.  A song of personal exploration and understanding, it is a stroll on the pensive side of Fruition’s catalogue.  Gorgeous mandolin solo from Mimi in the mid section here as well.  Love her style.  And speaking of Mimi, how about her covering a little Jimmy Cliff for us all?  Please and thank you!!  “The Harder They Come” proved quite the audience-pleaser, but of course.  And it sounded fantastic.  Great cover addition to the setlist for the evening to be sure.  Finally, a wee bit more down the set, the band closed things down by inviting Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass) up on stage to help them thrown down an awesome “Mountain Annie”.  It was really superb to hear Paul step up to the mic to take the lead vocals a couple of times.  He sounded really organic and marvelous singing alongside Fruition.  This is a guest spot I’d like to see many times over in the future.  A really tight and enjoyable version of this song.  Many thanks to one and all for it and for a ridiculously good show.  Certainly many new Fruition fans were forged that night and with very good reason.  Bravi to the band and their friends who joined them to make it such a special night!!  Love this band!!  And there was still more music left in the evening, too…crazy right?

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

    Green.  Sky.  Blue.  Grass.  Just wanted to get your attention.  You know, since this was one crazy good ass show.  Headlining the main stage for two consecutive nights, we were all poised and ready to ride along with GSBG for their first evening of magic and fun.  No matter how many times I see this band, each subsequent time is always that much better than the last.  Not really sure how they manage this seeming infraction of the laws of musical physics.  But, who cares?  These gents know how to jam in such innovative and interesting and inspiring ways — truly they bring a comprehensive show to the stage that never fails to satisfy.  They opened things up that Saturday with “The Four” > “One More Saturday Night” mixing a bit o’ the Dead in with your Greensky.  And what a mixture it was!!  But don’t take my word for it, check it out here: 

Let’s get this party started quickly, right?  Quickly, indeed.  Two songs in already and having a blast.  Fast pickin’ was up next with “Just to Lie”, Dave Bruzza providing a driving guitar line over the top of Mike Devol’s foundational bass.  This gave license for a bright mando solo from Paul and some lovely banjo work from Mike Bont.  I’d be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention Anders Beck’s ever-present and sonorous dobro, but, then again, I am a total sucker for dobro.  Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) came out for the next song, “Burn Them”, adding his very own brand of banjo to the ensemble.  “What if sorrows swim?”  What a question!!  Andy tore it up, too.  Some great duet work with Bont as well as plenty of solo riffing and picking.  Double banjos, when played by gents such as these…what more could you as for?  There was a huge, epic, dirty, gorgeous, amazing jam in the middle of this one, too.  So much great music.  So much great banjo!  Bravo, Bont!  Bravo, Andy!!  A bit further into the set came “Dustbowl Overtures” followed by “Bringing in the Georgia Mail” both of which sounded simply magnificent.  The fellas were really on fire that night in the chilly evening.  They kept that fire going strong with “Demons”, the next song in line which they dedicated to Fruition.  This seemed apropos given the story Paul told us regarding Fruition playing “Demons” for him at a festival a couple of years back.  They took it at a nice clip, too, maybe another homage to the band of dedication?  Paul’s mandolin work was its usual excellence here and the omnipresence of Anders’ dobro is always a welcome friend.  However, I cannot go without mentioning Bruzza’s big ol’ fat solo in the middle which he handed off seamlessly to Beck.  Watching this band trade off melody lines is like watching a highly-tuned soccer team at work on the pitch:  expert and masterful.  Keeping things nice and heated, we got a riveting and riotous “Kerosene” which came at us like a cyclone circus caravan crashing over and all around us in large splashes of music and light.  Another quick one, “Kerosene” proved a fertile ground for fat jams and sizzling hot solos as each member of the band took his turn to melt a few more faces out in the crowd.  This, in turn, was followed by “Wings for Wheels” and then “Leap Year” to close things out.  “Leap Year” featured some good and raucous teases as one might hope:  mainly in the form of “I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose” and “It’s Getting Hot in Here”.  Paul, you nut.  Just can’t resist can you?  And thank all that’s decent and good for that!!  As an encore we were gifted with an appropriately magnificent “Atlantic City”, one of my favorite covers of theirs.  And a huge favorite of the crowd if their screams of approval were any indication.  Dobro goodness up until the very end of the show!  Ahhhh…how nice.  And all those incredible musicians, each of the GSBG gentlemen — so fantastic tonight, such a stellar show.  A big, big round of thanks to one and all for making Saturday night at WonderGrass so very special.  It was almost hard to believe that we had yet one more show in store with these fine musicians the following evening!  So glad that was the case, however.  So very glad, indeed.  What a night with Greensky!!

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

    And then it was over and Saturday was already relegated to magnificent memory.  We’d seen so many great acts, heard so much marvelous music.  And we still had late night to go…Billy Strings and The Lil’ Smokies.  Talk about your late night!  And there was also Sunday in the works.  Sunday Funday, on the horizon and ready with even more music for those who had room left.  Like me.  I had more than enough and I was prepared in all ways necessary to consume more delicious bluegrass music.  But that is a story yet to come, my friends…

Sunday on its way, everyone!!