Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday Highlights

Jerry Douglas Band

    Yet another living legend on the Telluride Stage?  Could there really have been so many there this year?  Well, believe it, my friends.  And it really was astounding to be in the presence of so many so quickly.  We found ourselves once again along the river path as the first notes of the Jerry Douglas Band’s set drifted out into the warm afternoon air and down into the cool breezes blowing round the creek’s bed and the glacial, frothing waters churning ever downstream.  We must have had perfect timing in that moment for, as we rounded a bend, we were treated to a wonderful sight:  a gentleman, down on one knee, in the river proposing to his beloved who was standing before him, her feet in the cold waters belying the warmth and joy on her face.  With their friends all around in support and cheer, the two embraced in love and happiness and the promise of a bright future together.  We all hooted and hollered and clapped our excitement for them as we walked along, privy to such a lovely moment in time.  But that’s Telluride for you.  Anything is possible to be found…just around the bend.  Delightful.  We walked up to the main stage right as Jerry and his band were getting into their second number, a lively instrumental called "The Wild Rumpus", from the album Lookout For Hope.  This one was fantastic.  An energetic ripper to get things going strongly.  Lots of superb musicianship on display from the very get go.  For instance, some supremely fine fiddle playing, Christian Sedelmyer taking up the lead for a nice long solo as we strolled up.  And then it was onto Jerry and his mighty magical dobro.  Not that there is any doubt in your mind of Jerry’s abilities on that instrument, of course.  The man is master, in no uncertain terms.  And what about those bass solos from Daniel Kimbro?  Pretty damn incredible.  What a way to start things out…a proposal and then some world class bluegrass?  Sounds pretty great to me.  Next up was a little song about incarceration, life, and the various woes associated with each:  “On a Monday”.  Where to begin?  The cautionary tale in the lyrics?  The melt-your-face dobro madness from Jerry?  The huge, raucous, energetic breakdown at the end?  All of the above?  So much high energy so far from this band!  Such exquisite music as a result.  I was loving this JDB show!  Their next one, according to Jerry, was to be a Weather Report tune and it was going “to get goofy” apparently as they slowed things down a tad so we could “collect [our] thoughts”.  How nice of them, right?  “A Remark You Made” channeled a much mellower feeling than all the selections thus far, bringing the show to a more introspective place.  This didn’t mean we weren't treated to some simply stellar music, however.  Jerry took the melody almost all the way through the song, his dobro singing like a solo vocalist, crooning instrumentally into the afternoon.  Some sweet and lovely moments from the Kimbro's bass, too, providing a phenomenal counterpoint to Jerry’s dobro.  Especially that moment when bass and dobro were locked in a gorgeous duet with one another only to be joined by the fiddle to make a delightful trio.  There was some really magnificent music happening on that stage.  “Cave Bop” is an instrumental that Jerry wrote some time ago which was inspired by the Flintstones of all things.  As luck would have it, we captured that very tune on video for you to check our for yourself.  Please, enjoy, friends!! 

What a bop that was, eh?  And what a lead-in story about the background, right?  Too funny!  Jerry, you crazy man, you.  Next up?  How about Jerry on electric slide for a little “Something You Got” and some blues action?  Well, that was on the menu at Telluride that day and I am so glad it was, too!!  Thus proving the versatility of the man and his band, this soulful love song was filled to the brim with all sorts of tasty musical treats.  I mean, just the horn section alone brings so much to the table…and did, in spades, for this one.  Many thanks to Jamel Mitchell on sax
and Vance Thompson on trumpet -- excellent vibe, fellas.  Cheers!  Not to mention hearing Mr. Douglas shred it all over the place on that electric slide of his throughout.  Big sound and big bluesy texture from this one — made it another favorite of mine pretty much instantly.  Not to mention that brazen, bold, badass guitar solo from Mike Seal about three minutes in.  So good, just so good!  If we all came for some incredible, we were getting it.  Hands down.  A bit later down the set was another upbeat and fun instrumental whose name I missed.  Another shame about that since this was a super enjoyable tune filled with a bunch of extremely nice musical moments.  Whether it was Sedelmyer's fiddle, Doug Belote's drums, or Jerry's dobro spurring things on, this selection took us all on a journey through music and time together, lulled by the dulcet strains of each instrument that took up the solo line.  Brilliant things going there, just brilliant.  The title track to Jerry’s album The Best Kept Secret was next in line that afternoon for us.  Yet one more amazing tune from this powerhouse ensemble!  No doubting how polished they all were, each arrangement making the most of the instrumentation.  Jerry runs a tight musical ship, I am certain of that.  And just so much lovely, lovely dobro for me!  Wait, I mean for us.  Yeah, that’s right…for us.  Can’t go being a dobro glutton now, can I?  Or can I?  With Jerry on the stage, it was all too easy to do just that.  The band dedicated their next one, “Look Out for Hope”, to the people of Orlando.  How very awesome of them and how very fitting.  I think the whole world could use a little more hope right now.  A bit slower of a song, we drifted back with Jerry and band to that mellower space from earlier in the evening.  But we all went along willingly with such hauntingly beautiful music and why wouldn’t we?  It was so beguiling and interesting and pretty in so many ways.  What a fantastical musical journey we had all been on with the Jerry Douglas Band!!  How many places had we gone in the short span of one set?  So many different kinds of energy abounding, all meted out through the medium of music.  So very many thanks to Jerry and the members of his band for such an eclectically magnificent afternoon show at Telluride.  Way to make a Friday afternoon so special, gents!  Cheers to one and all!!

Jerry Douglas Band

Jerry Douglas Band

Punch Brothers

    Later in the day we were back to the main stage to spend a little time with the Punch Brothers and their uniquely singular style of string band music.  A bit like “mindgrass” in that their music makes you think, it turns your ear a different direction and challenges you and your musical palate in new and exciting ways.  Certainly makes for a very active listening experience and one filled with rewards for those paying attention.  Their first song, “Between 1st and A” is just such an example.  Chock full of extremely interesting chord progressions and vocal harmonies, this one epitomizes so much of that Punch Brothers sound for which they have become so well known and well loved.  There is no doubting whatsoever the elevated levels of musical ability represented on that stage.  All of those gents dominate their instruments with such skill and acumen as to belie their ages.  Certainly they’ve all logged more than enough time to become giants…the proof was in the musical pudding.  “Magnet” with its lyrics about being a bit more forward than usual was next in line for the Brothers on Friday afternoon.  A lot of extended techniques being employed on these instruments to great success.  Really gives a new and different kind of ensemble sound from these familiar tools of the trade.  As I said before, challenging music.  And this one was no exception.  From the mando to the banjo to the bass, all were emitting sounds unfamiliar in the bluegrass world and yet they were all making it work to great degree.  I feel there to be a great deal of intellectualism involved with Thile and his Punch Brothers…especially in the very music they play.  Not your father’s bluegrass.  Not by a long shot.  Another moment of luck for you, my reader friends…how about some video of this stellar performance?  How about a double-shot video for you, too?  Let me please present “The Hops of Guldenberg > Rye Whiskey” for your viewing enjoyment!! 

Whew doggie!  Now that was some seriously fine and madcap music, right?  And now you can see what I am saying about the overall qualities of their music, those subtle and not-so-subtle ways they are different from your other string bands out there.  It’s always nice to have a handy example, eh?  They slowed things down from that whiz bang ride with “Forgotten”, a melancholic and mellower song with a bit of a hidden positive message.  Hidden in the fabric of this complex number, that is.  “Hey there, it's all gonna be fine.  You ain't gonna die alone.  You ain't gonna be forgotten.”  Rather intense lyrics, dovetailing into the intensity of the music underneath.  Some really gorgeous fiddle throughout this one served to support Thile’s lead singing, his extremely beautiful voice like a beacon shining from the stage.  This effect was only amplified when the other gents joined in for the chorus, forming some magnificent harmonies between.  Quite the powerful moment in the song.  And that ensemble sound!  Instruments perfectly in concert with one another weaving together a fine and fabulous musical texture.  Talk about your rich and gratifying musical experience!  At this point, I feel I must admit that this was my first Punch Brothers experience.  I know, I know.  However, I should point out that I will ensure that it is most certainly not my last one!  What a show!  They really are quite the impressive group and I found there music to be most fascinating and entertaining and appealing to a very different side of me.  As such, I was super thankful they had been included in all the terrific hoopla for the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass.  Bravi, bravi, bravi, gentlemen for bringing your special brand of bluegrass to the Colorado Rockies this summer!  Many thanks to each and all of you for a wonderful show!  Really looking forward to my next time with the Punch Brothers!!

Punch Brothers

Punch Brothers

Greensky Bluegrass

    Greensky.  Bluegrass.  A name now synonymous with so many excellent jamgrass concepts and ideals and one that strikes joy in the hearts of many.  And they make such a great evening closer for a day at a festival, too.  Having seen them recently do that very thing at DelFest, I was jazzed at the opportunity once again here in Telluride.  And what a set those lads from Kalamazoo, MI, put on for us, my friends!!  Not surprising whatsoever, of course.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you can never see the same GSBG show twice because every time you see them, the band is that much better than before.  Talk about your pleasantly delightful conundrum.  But, if that is our fate, so bet it, and so it was that Friday night out in that southwestern corner of Colorado.  So, how did they begin the whole affair, you might ask.  Well, with a lengthy and excellent “Leap Year” to be exact.  And this is precisely how it went: 

Hold the fort!  What the heck just happened?  What an opener!  They followed their first song up with “Wings for Wheels”, Dave Bruzza on the lead, both guitar and vocals.  A mellow counterpoint to the previous selection, this was a testament to the band’s versatility.  This is one of the most heartfelt of the band’s repertoire and was every bit just that during this version.  Paul Hoffman had quite the beautiful mandolin solo a couple of minutes in which he handed off to Mike Bont on banjo who expertly picked out the song’s melody.  Just gorgeous!  “Demons” was next on the docket for this Greensky night of musical thrills, Hoffman back up to the mic to take lead on the lyrics.  Anders Beck’s familiar dobro line was a welcome friend as the song hurtled along, marking out those well-known strains with precision and heart.  Even though these songs are so familiar to me there is always something new to discover when hearing them live.  Some nuance or subtle turn of musical phrase that ignites a new understanding and/or greater appreciation of the song.  And that’s just GSBG for you, you know?  Certainly a hallmark of their style.  It was then that Jerry Douglas joined them on the stage for some good ol’ fashioned music fun for a few numbers.  The first of these was “Don’t Lie” which featured a double dobro intro courtesy of Anders Beck and Jerry.  Amazing.  I mean, just incredible.  And you could see just how freaking happy Anders was to be playing with one of his heroes.  Lots of good, gritty energy in this one, too…kind of dirty in all the right ways.  Lengthy intro for them to flex those chops of theirs, too…playing with the tempo and beat…which they then took surprisingly into “Curtis Lowe” without even singing a word of “Don’t Lie”.  Phoffman got us all when he began singing those vaunted and heralded lyrics.  And with a Jerry Douglas back-up?  All that delicious dobro!!  Holy goodness!!  We all thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  Then, just like that, we were right back into “Don’t Lie” proper, jamming along and grooving with Jerry still out there with the boys.  Such unreal music so far this set!  And we weren’t even halfway finished!  Double dobro once again mystifying all of us, they charged up this one and let it loose in a mighty wave of total incredibleness that washed over every person in the crowd, smiles popping up instantly from face to face.  The back and forth between Douglas and Beck was the workings of demigods in action — so very intense, each man playing his very heart out before our eyes.  It is almost impossible to describe the energy of this huge and lengthy breakdown.  Whew!  Need a break after that one.  But, no breaks for the raging, right?  Sam Bush, the King of Telluride, himself, joined Jerry and Greensky for some of that Telluride main stage action, providing some mean fiddle in all the right places.  They slowed things back a bit for the thoughtful and tender “Lose My Way”, their guests taking all the right cues to embellish this one so beautifully.  And just to be playing alongside living legends such as these.  Again, you could see the overall happiness and appreciation on each Greensky face to be doing so.  It really brought so much to the show itself and everyone’s playing.  Sam threw down this pretty nasty good fiddle solo during the breakdown, reenergizing the entire feeling on the stage once more in all the best ways.  Just so damn good!  Thank you, Sammy!  Oh, and Jerry?  His solo?  Pure, undiluted awesomesauce.  Plain and simple.  Sam and Jerry stayed out there for one more song with Greensky…this time“Frederico” was up.  Bright and bouncy, this one was a dance-inspiring roller coaster of fun.  And Jerry and Sam took the opportunity to have some of that fun, too.  How cool had it been to see them with GSBG?!?  So grateful to have been there to witness that greatness.  My goodness!!  So, a bit later down the set came the big closer combination that floored us all:  “When Doves Cry > Fame > When Doves Cry”.  Prince into Bowie back into Prince.  I’ll just let that sink in for a second.  So jammy, so groovy, so freaky, so funky.  So perfect.  From the long and lengthy and mysterious intro to “Doves” to the realization that they were actually going into “Fame” this was one helluva a good ride through the joys of what music can offer.  Hoffman nailed the vocals, of course.  He was born to cover songs like this.  And Greensky is just the band to make songs such as this shine outside their original borders.  Wow, and that mando solo from Paul…fast and furious and fantastic.  Just like Bruzza’s guitar solo which was super dirty and superb in its own right.  But that was like every gent…they all just stepped up and dominated solo after solo throughout.  GSBG-style.  And the Bowie was spot-on, too.  And I’m a man who knows his Bowie.  I believe that they would have made Ziggy Stardust proud with this rendition.  Such supremely good music!!  And then it was back into the Prince to close things down — there were some “Fame” teasers as things cruised towards the inevitable end.  And boom!  The last notes smacked like a bull-whip.  But they weren’t done just yet.  Encore time meant “Burn Them” time.  And they burned it right on down to the wire, giving one star power performance right up until the very ending.  I have no notes.  It was stupendous.  Thanks again to all those fellows in the band for giving us another marvelous night of unparalleled music!!  See you at Red Rocks next month!!  

Greensky Bluegrass with Sam Bush & Jerry Douglas

Greensky Bluegrass with Sam Bush & Jerry Douglas

Late Night - Leftover Salmon    

    Sadly, due to the main stage/late night overlap (which I wish wasn’t the case at Telluride), we arrived in time to catch just the second set of Leftover Salmon’s Nightgrass show at The Palm Theater.  However, it was such a colossal set, I figured I’d go ahead and bring it to you.  For, you see, any late night time with LoS is good late night time.  So, let’s boogie shall we?  As fate would have it, Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter were both out there with the band to join in all the shenanigans — such welcome additions to the stage!!  John Hartford’s immortal “Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie” was the opener for the set starting things off on the perfect foot for some late night tomfoolery.  Andy Thorn’s banjo solo caused me to lose my face (which I looked for all night afterwards, too) it was so freakin’ good.  So many notes!!  How?!?  Did I mention I just adore this song, too?  Talk about your crazy nocturnal dance fest!!  Especially when Ronnie tore his mando up for all the world to see — big time solo with so much deliciousness packed in.  And Drew was fun to watch watching Ronnie.  Did you get that?  Good.  Upbeat, uptempo firehose blast of tasty good music and energy.  Damn, son!  Oh, and then Jason had to step up with this mind-bending solo of his own on fiddle.  Wow, just wow.  Moving forward!  So, we nailed down a bit of the show for you in the form of another video.  This time?  “Anahuac > Midnight Blues”. 

How great was that?  How about Ronnie on those harmonies?  As you can see, we were all there to party down that night and were taking care of business, Leftover-style.  Up next they had Carter come to the mic for the lead on “Lonesome, Ornery, and Mean”, a favorite from McCouryland.  What a different song with Salmon backing him!!  And yet it sounded so familiar at the same time.  Just another take with a wholly new kind of sound.  A Salmony-Carter sound to be exact.  In a word it was fantastic.  Listening back through my notes was particularly enjoyable with this one.  And how about that Erik Deutsch on keyboards?  I cannot gush enough about how much I love this addition to the band.  Not only can this man own the piano and all other keys, he fits in so well with Leftover.  He just seems to gel perfectly with the vibe of the band and the personalities therein.  This is a sentiment I share with Andy Thorn who intimated the same thing to me one late, late night at Camp Howdy.  He shared that he really loves having Erik in the band and that the two have become fast friends.  Well, I am so grateful for his joining the band and I look forward to lots of incredible music to come!  Back to “Lonesome” for a sec, it is of great note that this song was just filled to the brim with amazing musicianship and musical moments, from Ronnie on mandolin to Drew Emmitt on electric and all in between, this one will be fun to find out there on Internet Archive.  So much fun.  So then, you might think some Bill Monroe?  Some Dylan?  Nope.  Some Afroman.  Like you do.  “Because I Got High”, that classic cautionary tale of yore?  Really?  Really.  And why not?  A grassy version, too.  Funny to watch Ronnie and Jason during this one — lots of Colorado culture coming at them at once.  They took it in great stride, though.  Vince Herman was on the lead vocals fore this one…but of course.  Who else could sing this version?  Lots of nice banjo work from Andy in this one, awesome breaks throughout, nice and constant.  McCoury threw down a lengthy mando solo, too, rounding things out in his familiar style.  That man knows his mandolin, no doubts.  As well as Drew knows his electric guitar.  Big, fat solo from Emmitt…perfect for this one.  A little later down the set, Vince was up to the mic again for the lead on the poignant “Appalachian Soul”.  Jason Carter had a gorgeous fiddle solo about two minutes in that threatened to bring tears to the eye.  Such lovely playing from that hugely talented man.  After that was a more tongue-in-cheek approach in the form of the a cappella “Get Your Ear Off My Floor”.  Too funny…that band certainly knows how to entice a giggle from their fans.  I’ve smiled and laughed more at Salmon shows than many others.  It’s just what they do.  In turn, they played the “fastest song [they] know”.  More comedy.  More smiles.  More laughter.  Straight into “Hot Corn, Cold Corn”.  The bluegrass classic played in a polyethnic cajun slamgrass fashion — always a crowd pleaser.  And always a whirlwind of crazy good music from every instrument.  Wicked fast playing from Thorn during one of the breaks made me break out in a sweat.  Wow.  Finally, it was time for a little more awesomeness, like some “Sittin’ on Top of the World”.  Just so very good!  So much insanely good music coming from that stage, from each man there present.  Greg Garrison gave us this monster bass solo a good ways in, dominating measure after measure to the utter delight of the crowd.  This was followed by a funky and fast drum solo from Alwyn Robinson, the master of the beat.  I mean, how could you ask for more?  But ask away because they took “Sittin’” directly into “Keep on Truckin’” and ran with it until the very end.  What a huge, huge ending to a ridiculously amazing set!  I really wish I’d made if for the entire show!  But, I was so grateful for what I saw…because it was baller in every way.  Thank you very much to Leftover, to their friends, Ronnie and Jason, and to all the folks who made this Nightgrass happen.  Festivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!  

Leftover Salmon with Ronnie McCoury & Jason Carter

Leftover Salmon with Ronnie McCoury & Jason Carter


More Friday Videos:

Balsam Range

Keep a lookout for the remaining two days of the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass, friends!!

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