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Nicki Bluhm

Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Monday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Monday

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Monday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters - Greensky Bluegrass - Yonder Mountain String Band

    And so, it was our last day in paradise once more.  However, there could be no sadness among us due to the simply phenomenal line-up in store for the final evening.  The Dusters, Greensky, and Yonder?  Not a bad way to round things out whatsoever!  And, certainly, with a head and heart filled with so many excellent memories at that point, everything to come was going to be icing on the bluegrass cake!  First up, it was time for some sunset action with The Infamous Stringdusters, main stage.  Kicking things off with “Light and Love” the band launched into their show with fantastic energy from the very beginning.  Not that that should be a big surprise to anyone familiar with a Dusters show.  So animated, so talented, so well-polished.  Suffice it to say, they deliver quite the performance every time and this one was no exception.  A little down the set, they catered right to this author’s heart by playing some delightful Pink Floyd in the form of “Fearless” which sounded absolutely fantastic.  And the inclusion of Andy Hall’s dobro in some Floyd?  Forget about it!  Incredible!  Travis Book summarily nailed down the vocals, clearly in very fine voice that evening.  An altogether excellent cover of an old favorite of mine.  Yet another bluegrass band that can really put together a wonderful cover experience for the audience.  Bravi, fellas!  Further into their set, the Dusters invited their good friend Nicki Bluhm out on stage to sing a couple of numbers with them.  The first of these was “Big Road Blues” which, true to form, was bluesy and funky and fun.  Really enjoyed this one.  Nicki sounded mighty fine on the lyrics, her voice so suited to this kind of music.  Between Hall’s dobro and Jeremy Garrett’s fiddle there was no shortage of flourishes and grace notes floating around this groovy musical texture.  Then Andy Falco’s guitar solo…my goodness.  Just how adept is that man at his instrument?  Insane!  What a rush of a good time — really dug this selection!!  They followed this up with one of their standards as of late:  “Run to Heaven”.  Man, did it ever sound good on the beach at sunset that evening.  Garrett’s fiddle and Hall’s dobro once again did a dance around one another all counterpointing Chris Pandolfi’s banjo excellence.  Ensemble-wise, there are few other bands out there better than these Dusters.  After Nicki left the stage to much applause for her lovely contributions to the show and a bit on down the line, the boys played some Grateful Dead for us all.  What a gift!  “Jack Straw” proved to be one of those pivotal moments of the fest when everyone just seems to lock into the experience.  Luckily, we captured that very experience on film for you!  Please enjoy the Dusters’s S&S version of “Jack Straw”: 

Chills, right?  Talk about tearing another cover up!  We were being treated to such incredibly great music…what luck and we all knew it!  Then, Jake Jolliff (Yonder Mountain String Band) joined the fellows on the main stage for a couple of pieces, packing his mandolin like a side iron.  “Wheel Hoss” proved to be one speeding freight train of string band magnificence.  So many notes from all those instruments for this tune.  Whether it was banjo or dobro or mando or fiddle, guitar, or bass it was a never-ending litany of note after precious note, melting into our ears, melting our faces.  Jake was on fire, of course, enjoying playing alongside ISD, clearly written on his face.  Garrett, of course, had to answer on fiddle, throwing down some serious solo work with his bow.  I mean, Falco, Panda, Book…all killed it.  Just killed it.  One of the more fun “Wheel Hoss” renditions I’ve been privy to.  Massively great job, guys!  Another cover was waiting around the corner and later on in the set:  the Police’s “Walking on the Moon”.  I really enjoy this one from the Dusters, always have.  Travis Book always does an excellent job with the vocals, really bringing this song to life.  Love those duet slides from Garrett and Hall in the beginning — what a cool sound, what a timbre!  Damn, were they in great form that night!  But, isn’t that what we’ve all come to expect from ISD?  Amazing shows each and every time?  I mean, right?  And this one fit the bill to a “t”.  It’s interesting to map out how shows make you feel…and I know how this one was making me feel.  Utterly happy.  Stupendous music will do that to you.  They finished up this stellar show with “Long Lonesome Day” and “Getting Down the Road”, quite the double-whammy closer.  Panda was all over the intro to “Lonesome Day” laying down some serious notes on his banjo which provided the perfect lead in for Travis on vocals.  Andy was a monster that dobro, showing just how incredible he is on his chosen instrument.  And, my goodness, do I love me some dobro!  Such good solo work from all the gents, to be honest…Falco dominated on guitar as usual, Jeremy made his fiddle sing like a well-trained soprano, it all sounded phenomenal.  This trend continued into “Getting Down the Road” which proved a very strong finish.  The band took the high energy of the night all the way to the end delivering one memorable show to be sure.  And the crowd loved it to the very last note.  How couldn’t we have?  It was just so good!  So many big thanks to the band and the folks that support them.  So happy to have had them at Strings & Sol this year!!

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

    Greensky Bluegrass.  Just the name alone, right?  Exactly.  Darkness had fallen all around the brightly lit stage by that point, all of us having supped and refreshed and donned our party gear to help take this entire affair to a happy close.  The band walked out to great applause, all of us ready to get our groove on, Greensky style.  They opened the whole shebang with “Merely Avoiding”, Paul Hoffman sounding recording perfect straight out of the gate, both on vocals and mandolin.  And there was no denying the omnipresence of the sweet sound of Anders Beck’s dobro as he filled the song with bar after bar of delightful notes.  Mike Bont’s banjo duet with Hoffman’s mando a few minutes in was really tight from a musical texture perspective as well — really enjoyed that combined sound from those two adept gentleman.  Fantastic start and the crowd thought so as well.  This was followed by Dave Bruzza jumping up to the mic for one of the fine standards of the GSBG catalog:  “Worried About the Weather”.  Lots and lots of notes were coming from Bont’s side of the stage throughout this one counterpointed by Beck’s own lovely contributions coming from the opposite.  Of course, Bruzza’s own guitar chops are very much in need of mention — his solo at the two minute mark was absolutely gorgeous.  The more I hear that man play the more I want to hear that man play.  And talk about your sing-a-long crowd pleaser!  They took this directly into some more Pink Floyd for the evening, just warming my heart to no end.  “Time” from Floyd’s incredible and timeless Dark Side of the Moon album.  Man, do I just love GSBG’s version of this song!  From Hoffman kicking some serious ass on the vocals and making them his own to the stupendous ensemble sound coming from the entire band to the phenomenal solos from everyone that illuminated this music in such new and exciting ways, this one proved a huge favorite for the entire audience.  And how couldn’t it have been?  I mean we’re talking Greensky doing Floyd, my friends!!  How much better can it really get??  Bont was a madman…a madman I tell you all song long.  You could only see a blur where his fingers were supposed to be — so many freakin’ notes.  So excellent!  Bruzza certainly threw down his share of crazy good soloing following up Anders who had just delivered some lengthy and masterful melody work himself.  All around, I’d give the fellas an A+ for their mighty fine efforts here.  Might fine, indeed!  Thanks for catering to this long time Floyd fan, you guys!  Friends Andy Goessling (Railroad Earth) and Duke Davis joined the band for their next song, “Miss September” which was proved to be a pretty groovy damn time.  But, you needn’t take my word for it when you can see for yourself right here!! 

Not bad, right?  Not bad at all!  Pretty groovy damn time, indeed, right?  Well, that groove kept right on a-going when The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm joined the fellas on stage for some seriously good supergroup action.  Sadly, Travis Book didn’t make it out with ISD, but you could tell he was there in spirit for this big rendition of Clapton’s “After Midnight”.  As such, Mike Devol was working double overtime to provide that baller bass sound…no worries, my friends.  He did an outstanding job.  As always.  That man, the consummate professional.  What a steamroller of a song this one turned out to be…obviously.  So many excellent musicians on stage at one time.  My goodness!  It was almost too much.  Almost.  But not even remotely…I could watch that show for hours.  The Greenfamous Stringgrassers?  Yeah, I’d buy that ticket.  I can’t even begin to accurately describe for you all the stellar music that graced my ears during this song.  Banjos and guitars and mandolin and dobros and fiddle, oh my!!  Needless to say, it sounded like heaven.  And what a great song choice, too!  We were all very much into the entire vibe and loving every minute.  Lots and lots of happy faces in that crowd.  A little on down the set, the band welcomed Larry Keel and Danny Barnes up to join them for a fun version of “I’d Probably Kill You” which, as you guessed, morphed into “I’d probably Keel you” during the course of the number.  Nothing like getting the combined awesome grit of Keel and Barnes out there with GSBG — really makes for quite the necessary musical experience to witness.  Bruzza and Hoffman sang their duet in fine fashion, providing that melodic and lyric complement to the band and their pals.  Danny was, in a word, nasty on the banjo, really throwing down in only the way that he can.  So very good.  Larry, well, Larry was Larry, through and through.  Just shredding on guitar, owning every note.  It certainly can be said of both guests that they are true wizards on their chosen instruments.  You could tell how much the band truly enjoyed sharing the stage with them.  Finally, a little later on, they closed things out by playing a fantastic S&S version of “Living Over”.  It proved to be a perfect closing song for the night of music they had delivered to us, dancing on the beaches of the Now Sapphire in tropical and gorgeous Mexico.  So many cheers to the boys from Kalamazoo!  They did it again!  Bravi, fellas!!

Greensky Bluegrass with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm

Greensky Bluegrass with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm

    Unfortunately, due to some technical issues, most of my note files for Yonder Mountain String Band’s performance were corrupted.  As such, I can only report on a couple of songs.  My sincerest apologies for this, my friends.  And my sincerest apologies to the band.  My memories are all happy ones, though — Yonder really put on a fantastic closing show for Strings & Sol.  “Complicated” was fantastic and Ben Kaufmann really sounded amazing on the vocals.  Classic YMSB sound for this one, with the added bonuses of the newer recruits, of course.  Adam Aijala gave us a beautiful solo on guitar a few minutes in that was just lovely to behold.  Allie’s fiddle was also a gorgeous addition to the mix of this song, doling out a truly fine solo run of her own.  All in all, it was mighty pretty version of this Yonder standard.  The encore from their show was pretty phenomenal, too.  Lots of friends joining them:  Bruzza, Devol, Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon), Beck, and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) — what a cast of characters to close down the fest’s last song.  Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” was on the menu and Dave Johnston was on the lead to take us all home.  What a version of this one, too!  Especially with all the various folks on stage doing the back up parts.  Pretty hilarious but pretty amazing, as well.  Certainly a great way to end things on a high note for this unparalleled festival experience.  Many thanks to Yonder for closing it all so well and keeping the energy going until the last note.  Fantastic!

Yonder Mountain String Band and Friends

Yonder Mountain String Band and Friends

    And, so, we said good-bye to another four days of music in the lovely Riviera Maya on the coast of eastern Mexico.  Cloud 9 had outdone themselves once again — this had been my favorite Strings & Sol thus far.  It really is such an incredible festival with so much going so right all around the bend.  The line-up was stellar this time just as always, the staff at the Now Sapphire and the resort itself were wonderful and charming…truly I have no notes for Strings & Sol whatsoever.  Except maybe one:  please don’t change a thing!  A huge round of applause to everyone who had a hand in making this year’s S&S go off so very well!  It was, as always, the experience of a lifetime and I know I cannot wait to get back in 2017!  Thanks for reading, everyone, and get yourself to Mexico this year!

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Saturday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Saturday

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Railroad Earth - The Infamous Stringdusters - Greensky Bluegrass

    Ah, there is nothing quite like a Saturday spent at the Now Sapphire for Strings and Sol.  Saturdays just have that special quality, don’t they?  And to couple one with such joy and enjoyment, well, it almost seems illegal.  Pretty amazing that it isn’t, right?  Precisely!  With most folks enjoying the pool or ocean or both all day long, libations in hand and reveling in one another’s company, the vibe was strong and merry down in Mexico that day.  That afternoon, it was to be none other than New Jersey’s own Railroad Earth who would be playing one of their famous sunset shows on the main stage, oceanfront, one of my favorite sets of the festival.  There is just something about the paring of Railroad with the setting of the sun by the sea that creates a magic all its own, and one very much worth tapping into.  I think it is always a real treat to see a band mesh with a venue and setting so well as RRE at sunset at S&S.  All of us enjoy being privy to something special, right?  They kicked the whole amazing deal off with “The Forecast”, the familiar strains of Tim Carbone’s fiddle heralding in this favorite and crowd-pleasing song.  Todd Sheaffer on lead vocals sounded like the trusted voice of a favorite uncle, one heard so often and so well-respected, loved even.  There is just something so very comforting about his voice and his approach to vocals.  The band sounded crisp and polished in their ensemble sound, each of these men a true master on their chosen instrument(s).  John Skehan’s mandolin sounded off like a clarion call, each note beaming forth to augment the whole.  I really loved it when things turned to a gritty, funky groove for a spell — excellence!!  A fantastic beginning selection and one which they took directly into “Chasin’ A Rainbow”.  Certainly another favorite of the crowd, we were lucky to get a nice video of it for you.  Please enjoy this slice of Strings & Sol!!

Now you see what I mean about the band plus setting effect you get with Railroad’s sunset show at S&S.  What a wonderful vibe, right?  A little down the set, they backed things off a bit with “Old Man and the Land”, plugging into that intense mellow energy that Railroad does so very well.  Andy Goessling grabbed up his banjo for this one, plucking along in accompaniment to Skehan’s mando and then vice versa.  Andrew Altman swapped out his electric for his upright bass as well, opting for that string band sound.  As the opening built and built it finally expanded into the syncopated musical landscape of the song proper.  I really love all sides of this one, all the faces of the song.  And talk about your sing-a-long!  So many voices united with Todd in song and joy.  What a sound to behold!  “For Love” followed, with Goessling on dobro and Altman on electric bass, Carbone’s fiddle once again leading things off for us.  Carey Harmon was laying down a serious beat for this one, too…keeping time like a finely-tuned clock.  As per usual, of course.  And always smiling, that one.  Always so happy to be throwing down some mad percussion.  What a fantastic set it had been thus far!  They ended up winding down and finishing out the set with a big triple play of “Black Bear” straight into “Like A Buddha” into “The Wheel”.  What a roller coaster ride it was, too.  Once again, they hit us full force with that mellow intensity of theirs with “Black Bear” filled to the brim with classic RRE sound and energy.  It proved the perfect set-up for the happy-filled “Like A Buddha” which was a merrymaking rendition of this song if I’ve every heard one.  So many smiles on so many faces on that beach as the sun was setting, falling beneath the waves with the dark coming in.  It was an honor to be a part of such revelry as this.  And then “The Wheel” to close?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  What a show!  So many thanks to the band for the fabulous music.  I always love a Railroad show, but this one was, indeed, special.  So many magic moments…so much gratitude.  Cheers, fellas!  

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

    Next up later on that evening were The Infamous Stringdusters.  Man, I just love typing things like that.  Especially when the Dusters and Greensky play the same stage in the same night?  Forget about it!  Hard to imagine such luck!  I headed back up to the stage a wee late missing their first two songs (“Sentenced to Life” and “My Destination”) but entered on a great one:  “Get It While You Can”.  What a quintessential Dusters song, right?  It really embodies so much of their energy and sound and everything else that makes the ISD such a fantastic band.  Jeremy Garrett threw down a particularly mean fiddle solo a few minutes in, unleashing a sea of smiles from those of us down in the sand.  My goodness can that man saw a tune!  And these boys were just getting going!  A bit further into the set it was time for another fantastic standard from the Dusters in the form of “Peace of Mind”, Chris Pandolfi filling the air with countless banjo notes during the intro, spreading them around for all to hear and treasure.  They took this one at a nice clip, imbuing it with some of that tropical energy surrounding all of us and elevating it to a supremely fun dancing song.  Andy Falco delivered the lyrics in fine fashion with excellent supporting harmonies, as always with this song.  And then there was that dobro solo from Andy Hall.  Damn, son.  I mean, damn.  Sizzling hot.  What a great set so far!  Certainly not ones to pass up the opportunity to share the stage with some of the other incredibly musicians present, the band invited friend Danny Barnes out for a little fun on his mighty banjo.  Panda was visibly excited to be throwing down alongside a giant like Barnes.  Makes perfect sense, right?  They got things going with a crazy funky number showcasing just that kind of excellent and magnificent musical weirdness and madness that Danny brings to the world of string band music.  Really groovy, start to finish.  What a treat.  Next up with Danny they delivered a marvelous version of “Don’t Think Twice” — but why take my word for it when you can see for yourself, my friend?  Please enjoy!! 

Pretty darn amazing music, right?  Am I right?  So very good.  Then it was time for another close friend of the group to join them onstage for a few numbers:  none other than Nicki Bluhm.  Nicki, of course, is no stranger at all to performing with the Dusters — their collaborations are well-known by this point.  One of the best of them, in my opinion, is their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”.  Nicki’s voice is perfect for this one and she really nailed it this time, there can be no doubt.  And the band absolutely killed this one, too…who knew a bluegrass version of this song would be so, well, killer?  Garrett was on fire all song, just destroying things on his magic fiddle throughout.  And what a thumping bass line from Travis Book!  So much foundational energy for the rest of the band to soar from and back down to time and again.  And such a stage presence — it cannot be easy moving that upright around all over the place like he does.  Love it.  Later on still down the set came a huge ending drive that began with Cash’s “Big River”, a huge crown favorite of course.  One of those perfect covers for the band in question, in my opinion.  It’s just one that seems to fit so very well and the S&S version was no exception whatsoever.  Excellent banjo work from Panda about a minute into things set the tone for the round robin of solos to ensue throughout the song.  This would include all the members of the band on their respective instruments, showing beyond the shadow of a doubt the overall musical excellence of the Dusters.  Falco had a monster solo during their big, bold, badass jam in the middle that searing the very souls of those listening.  What a showing!  Bravi, boys!  Then came the “Blackrock” into Phish’s “First Tube” right back into “Blackrock” closer that melted every face in the crowd, man, woman, and child.  So much dobro from Hall!!  So much fiddle from Garrett!!  So many notes flying from the stage and washing over us in a cascade of merriment and musical joy.  “Blackrock” is quite the instrumental ride in and of itself, but when you add some Phish to the mix?  Are you kidding me?  Plus, we must count the fact that they totally nailed their string arrangement of this jammy oldie but goodie.  Truth.  Just the plain facts, my friends.  What a crazy good jam, too.  Holy goodness!  Like I said, a face melter, through and through.  By the time they made it back into “Blackrock” to close things down we were all losing our collective minds.  And then, wham!  It was all over.  Last note played.  Band has taken their bow.  Done.  And, wow, what a freaking roller coaster!  Thank you so much, you Infamous Stringdusters!  Thank you for all the smiles and the marvelous music!  What a way to spend an evening on the beach! 

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

    Cue Greensky.  Cue rain storm.  Cue dancing in the rain to some baller ass newgrass.  And rain it did, let me tell you.  Pretty much the entire show, too.  Kind of a bummer in some ways after the first several songs and you start to get a bit waterlogged.  But, on the upside of things, Greensky Bluegrass tore it up on that main stage in spite of the rain and wind.  Professionals, those guys, to a man.  Opening things up with a fantastic rendition of “Old Barns” the band showed they meant business from the very get-go.  Paul Hoffman was in exceptionally fine voice that evening, which meant wonderful things for all of us with ears in the crowd.  That song is certainly one that stirs the soul.  They followed quickly on the heels of “Old Barns” with “Leap Year”, throwing out crowd favorite after crowd favorite, apparently.  The rain did get to a point where we retreated under cover in a friend’s room, friends like that great to have, of course.  However, we could still hear the show from our sanctuary and “Leap Year” sounded phenomenal.  Anders Beck slew his well-known dobro line at the beginning heralding in this song in familiar fashion, not to mention all his stylings throughout the number.  And that Bont solo?  Banjo madness, pure and simple.  Worth mentioning as well was just how fast they took it for this version.  So much energy.  Especially when Bruzza took up the reigns on his guitar and killed a solo of his own.  So many freaking notes!  How?!?  Already this was a stellar show.  Not that I was the least bit surprised.  They finished up their first set with “Windshield”, taking things to that lower-frequency intensity at the beginning and pumping things up to “eleven” by the end making for an excellent way to end things for a quick set break.  So far, so grand, fellas.  Magnificence.  After a quick set break/rain delay during which we grabbed our rain gear and headed back up to the stage, second set got quickly going in defiance of the rain with “The Four”.  Sadly, the rain did a bit of damage to the overall music experience of the evening…there is only so much you can do in those conditions, you know?  But the band persevered as did the audience and we were all treated some amazing GSBG music in spite of the delays and storms, etc.  I mean, to their credit, they still sounded superb.  A bit down the set came a soggy but triumphant version of “Don’t Lie”, Anders’s dobro lines weaving in and out of the musical consciousness on stage like the voice of an old, dear friend.  Phoff was a beast on that microphone, styling and profiling his crooning almost as if to each and every one of us personally.  Not to mention his lovely mando playing, counterpointing Bont’s every note on banjo…the hundreds of them that there were.  That man is a wizard on that instrument of his.  And always with such an unassuming smile on his face, bent in concentration and spell craft over the strings.  Wowsers, what a solo!  It just went on and on and delightfully on.  And we were all so grateful.  The jam was, in a word, volcanic.  It erupted in an avalanche of notes and music and wonderment so incredible!!  Replete with “Tequila” teases and so much great instrumental work from every member of the band, it was a mind-bender.  Truth.  A wee bit later and close to set’s end came Dave Bruzza up the mic for the lead on “Take Cover”.  It is almost impossible to see that man’s hands move over that guitar of his — what a picker!  Tarnation!!  And there’s nothing like a little effect pedal on some dobro, right?  Thanks to Anders we got just that!  There’s just something I love about his particular dobro style.  I think it has a lot to do with him as a person…his overall attitude and personality.  Beck just brings something to that instrument of his, something unique.  Something very much worthwhile.  Finally, the Michigan fellows closed things down with one of their more famous and well-loved covers:  Prince’s “When Doves Cry”.  They started it all off with a funky, jazzy, groovy intro belying the truth of what was right around the corner.  Well-done with the musical deception.  Way to keep things fun, guys!  I’ve certainly heard them do this one before, but here dancing in the wet sand, the rain still gently falling, the ocean crashing nearby, the stage shining out like a beacon in the damp night, it all took on a new and more poignant meaning, a deeper experience.  So much marvelous madness was unleashed in so many forms, all dancing along to this familiar song.  Big solos from Phoff, Bruzza, Beck, and Bont peppered the entire affair with Mike Devol, that boss of bass, laying down the funkiest bottom line you’ve heard in a long time.  Such a massive ending!  So much incredible energy soaring from the stage.  And all of us there shaking our fists in the face of that storm, soaking up the music like water in the sand.  What a night it had been.  Railroad, Dusters, then Greensky?  What stupendous luck!  What gratitude.  What thankfulness.  Thanks so much to GSBG and all their people!  What could Sunday possibly be like, I wondered at that moment.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

Stick around for Sunday, on the way, friends!!

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

    Never miss a Sunday show as that old and wise saying goes.  So, I suppose at a fest such as Telluride, you might have to broaden that a bit and rather say:  never miss a Sunday.  Such was the case in Town Park this year with a veritable bevy of incredible music to choose from.  And what choices, right?  Like the Dusters, for instance?  Walking up to the main stage area we were graced with ever the crowd pleasing “Night on the River” the band firing up in full force from the get go.  And who doesn’t love getting Dusty, right?  What a powerhouse band…another of those that keeps getting better each time I see them.  And so entertaining!  Such energy and movement on stage and the obvious ultra-enjoyment written on ever member’s face the entire time.  It sure is refreshing to watch someone who loves their job so much, am I right?  And this is always certainly the case with The Infamous Stringdusters.  Keeping with the river theme, they took “Night on the River” directly into “Where the Rivers Run Cold” another favorite from their catalogue.  Good combo there, those two songs.  And what a beautiful evening it was, too, by the way.  The sun was beginning to go down throwing long shadows from the trees and painting the surrounding mountains in gorgeous shades of ever-reddening dwindling light.  It was our last evening in Town Park for a long time to come and we were all savoring the experience with as much gusto and fervor as we could muster.  Next up in line for the set was the instrumental “Sirens”, filled to the brim with incredible musicianship.  From Andy Hall’s brilliant dobro dominance to Jeremy Garrett’s absolutely deadly fiddling, pieces like this one always tend to satisfy whatever bluegrass cravings you might have brought with you to the show.  A bit later in the set, friend of the band and songstress Nicki Bluhm came out to join the fellas for a few songs.  The first of these was “Run to Heaven, Run to Hell” one of the excellent familiar choices for this particular collaboration.  I’ve had the chance to hear this song several times now with Nicki in the lead and it definitely grows more and more each time I hear it.  And that fantastic dobro intro from Hall?  I love that I know it so well now…because I love it.  And the fact that the same melodic line comes back over and again in contrast to Nicki’s singing, both complementing the other so well.  Excellence and another great opportunity to point out the overall great success of this collaboration between Bluhm and the boys.  In honor of Father’s Day, they offered up a little love song next, Jeremy Garrett taking lead vocals with Bluhm in harmonic support.  “Ring on Your Finger” was a new one to my ears and an enjoyable one at that.  A lovely, buoyant energy to this one really made for some great dancing potential.  Which the audience capitalized upon, but of course.  And there were some really fine harmonies in this one between Nicki and the boys…polished.  Appreciably polished.  Like most of the Dusters’ harmonies in point of fact.  Sara Watkins also came out for a little guest action on “See How Far You’ve Come” — another of the ladies with whom ISD collaborated on their most recent album, Ladies and Gentlemen.  And what a project, too!  Lots of star power and voice power counted amongst those friends on the album, fellas.  Bravi to all on a job very well done!!  What a great body of work to contribute to the bluegrass universe!  And then how about that Phish they played for us?  Yeah, that’s right…Phish.  “First Tube” to be precise.  And they killed it!  Completely!  It really did sound amazing as a grassed-up Dusters version, no doubts there.  What an unexpected treat!  Thank you Dusters!  How about Nicki Bluhm joining in those big, lovely vocal harmonies on “Let It Go” next up in line?  What a positive song to begin with, both lyrically and musically, and then to hear it in a place like Telluride with so much nature and joy and life and laughter all around?  Magnificent.  Just magnificent.  It really did sound just spectacular, too.  No notes!  Later still down the set, we got a very fine “Peace of Mind” which we just happen to have for you here in its entirety, so you can savor a bit of this excellent set: 

Hope you enjoyed that.  And how about that new stage, huh?  Pretty durn incredible, right?  Certainly made for the perfect backdrop to the 43rd Annual.  They followed “Peace” up with “You Can’t Stop the Changes”, a song filled with lots and lots and lots of great instrumental work.  Chris Pandolfi’s banjo is a steady constant of awesome throughout the song, at several points making space for Garrett’s fiddle or Andy Falco’s guitar to take center stage.  Travis Book, as always, laying down brick after musical brick of the foundation of each number, his bass booming out in all the right ways was doing so with relish and gusto and that eternal smile of his.  Ah, classic rock time.  Nicki Bluhm was back out to sing “Somebody to Love” channelling her inner Janis, proving a marvelous way to end a marvelous show.  The crowd ate this one up completely — there wasn’t a voice in the audience not singing along to this well-known favorite.  Pretty sweet bluegrass version of this song, too.  But they weren’t done just yet!  Oh no, friends!  They had a big encore for us in the form of “17 Cents”.  Jeremy Garrett was back up to the mic for the lead on this one, not to mention laying down some phat fiddle in between verses.  More fantastic Dusters-style vocal harmonies all throughout this one, too.  Just wonderful.  Got a bit more dobro to appease my addiction as well thanks to Andy Hall and that magical instrument of his.  And his superb skills on said instrument.  How much fun had this been?  Bravi to the Stringdusters and their friends and guests on a phenomenal afternoon set at Telluride this year!!  A big thank you all around!!

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

Telluride House Band

    I cannot help but think of that term and chuckle:  “Telluride House Band”.  What a completely unassuming name for the band of bluegrass super heroes who took the stage.  I mean, here is the roster for you:  Bela Fleck on banjo, Edgar Meyer on bass, Sam Bush on mandolin, Bryan Sutton on guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and Jerry Douglas on dobro.  My goodness!  I need to sit down after something like that!  Supergroup-and-a-half, eh, friends?  Precisely.  So you can surmise the level of otherworldly music we were granted with for the final main stage show of the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Level:  expert.  Yup, that about sums it up.  So, let’s get to that music, shall we?  “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” was the first song of the show, Sam Bush on lead vocals.  Nothing like a bluegrass classic to kick things off, right?  Fabulous work from all corners of the band on instruments, too…from Jerry on dobro to Sam on mando and Stuart on fiddle, each colored in the bars of the song in between the verses like a master painter at work on a fresh canvas.  These giants of grass music certainly weren’t shy when it came to doling out amazing note after note after note.  Great way to get things going — it promised to be a pretty stellar set.  As if I didn’t know that already just from the line-up.  I didn’t quite catch the name of the next number, a Bryan Sutton lead, but it is more than likely close to “I’ll Find Peace Again”.  This was a fast picker, too, no doubt about it.  So many notes!  So many dobro notes, for instance, as Jerry was wont to deal them out delightfully liberally.  Thankfully.  And quite an excellent amount of mando notes, too.  Thanks, Sammy.  Great fun, this one…I really need to track down the proper title so I can find it again.  Next up the band played a piece written by Bela Fleck entitled “Spanish Point”.  What a lead-in by Sutton on guitar!!  But wait, you can check it out yourself — we snagged a video of the entire song just for you!  Please enjoy, friend! 

“House Band” right?  Hahaha.  Right.  I want them to be the band at my house.  Why not?  Then it was time for “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man”…gee, I wonder what this song was going to be about.  Have to love bluegrass that way sometimes.  This one started out at a quick clip with some serious fiddling from Mr. Duncan peppering the entire intro.  Bela stepped forward to showcase his banjo skills a couple of minutes in with a big solo only to be answered by Sammy Bush not long after who tore up his mando fretboard like a madman.  But, Jerry Douglas was not to be outdone jumping out for his own big moment just before the lyrics came back in again.  And then Sutton, whew!!  The speed with which that man can attack a guitar is just breathtaking.  Just when you thought this song couldn’t get any crazier, Edgar’s bass solo sparked up like a firecracker surprising more than one member of the crowd for sure.  All around, such incredible music from everyone on stage.  Damn.  Jerry led things off for the next selection, taking some sweet, sweet time to make that dobro of his sing and dance.  No argument that the man is an adept, an expert-level master on his chosen instrument.  And always what an honor to hear him play!  This was a lively instrumental from start to finish and the perfect environmentin which to solo for each and every member of the band.  Big, fat solos from all of them…and I mean all of them.  Bryan?  Amazing.  Meyer?  Are you kidding me?  All of them, as I said just dominated the round-robin and back-and-forth throughout the entire piece.  What a shame I have no idea what the name of it was.  Hazards of the job, right?  A Merle Travis song was next in line, one about coal mining life in places like West Virginia and Kentucky.  The indomitable John Cowan joined the house band for the lead vocals on this one.  It had been fantastic seeing John all over during the festival weekend.  What a magnificent addition he made to so many songs and bands!  “Dark As a Dungeon” was a sad tale of exploitation and horrid conditions for the miners in question, an anthem to champion their plight.  Cowan just nailed the vocals, of course, this being a perfect song for his range, in my opinion.  Poignant and powerful, this one was intense both lyrically and musically, mellow yet brooding.   A little later on in the set we got a fantastic tribute to John Hartford in the form of “Up on the Hill Where They Do they Boogie”, a rendition of which Mr. Hartford himself would have been proud.  I love this song.  I love this song no matter who plays it and the Telluride House Band was rocking it all over the place.  Some dark and mysterious fiddle from Stuart early on bled back into the melody line in a masterful stroke of the bow.  “I wonder what they do when they do the boogie and I wonder what I’m doing here.”  Well I knew precisely what I was doing there at Town Park, boogying to Edgar Meyer thrashing out on his bass for one thing and the remainder of the band going nuts for another.  Bravi, gents, what a ride!!  John Cowan was back up to the mic for the lead on the classic “A Good Woman’s Love” and, man, did he ever hit some strong notes.  That fellow has quite the voice on him.  Really lovely work from Bela and Jerry on this song, both men showing just what they can do on their tools of the trade.  A mighty fine version of this bluegrass love song.  Later on down this monster set, they closed things out with hard drivin’, fast pickin’ number that featured pretty much everyone many times over before things were through.  A Stuart Duncan lead, it was Bill Monroe’s “Pig in a Pen” and it was marvelous.  So fast, so precise, so many notes from so many hands.  The exchange of solo from man to man throughout was nothing short of expert.  It’s almost impossible to describe that impressive wall of sound coming from the stage.  A bluegrass tsunami of massive proportions that caused absolute mirth and merriment wherever it splashed down.  Despite all that amazing, they weren’t done yet!  They had a few encores for us to savor.  The first of which was Edgar Meyer’s mellow tune, “Green Slime”, whose music far outshines its name.  This was a chill exploration through the musical landscape dotted all along by the instrumental lines of the giants on the stage.  Banjo and fiddle and dobro and guitar…all were featured and all featured so well.  The second encore was Flatt and Scruggs’s “Salty Dog Blues” and we were all invited to sing along to this familiar friend of a song.  Which lots and lots of us did, our voices raised to the sky.  Probably the best version of this song I’ve ever heard just given the musicians in question and their demigod status.  Their third and final encore of the evening and the last notes to be played on the Telluride Bluegrass main stage for the 43rd Annual was the “White House Blues”.  This proved to be a bluegrass freight train rocketing down the tracks at ludicrous speed filled completely with world-class grass picking.  Damn, it was just so good!  Blasting at all cylinders until the very end, this was the perfect finish to a weekend already brimming over with more amazing music than I could handle.  What a show!!  Bravi, gentlemen, and thank you ever so much for one of the best sets of the weekend!!  Please consider being the house band at my place, if you are ever looking for a non-Telluride gig together, that is.  We’ll make sure to have really good refreshments!  Think it over…no need to tell me know.  

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

     And then it was over.  In a bluegrass blink-of-an-eye!  So hard to believe that four days of utter joy just flew by like that — it almost isn’t fair how the marvelous times in life seem to jet past while the miserable days can drag on and on.  But, I’ll take it.  I’ll take every minute of it no matter the speed at which it travels.  An experience such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival makes it so worth it at every turn.  From the main stage shows to Elks Park to Nightgrass and everything that comes between, during, before, or after, your time in Telluride is second to none.  Just looking up around at the waterfalls and mountains and green trees and blue skies and then down at the picturesque and inviting little town, you get a sense of just how special this whole deal really and truly is.  And has been for well over 40 years.  And that’s saying a whole lot.  A huge round of applause to all those folks who worked so hard to put this year’s fest on for us.  Your work is so greatly appreciated!!  A big thanks, as well, to all the bands and musicians who provided the musical everything for the weekend!!  I really can’t wait to do it all over again next year.  No really.  Seriously.  Only 11.5 months to go, right?  Right.

The New Stage

The New Stage

Thanks for reading, everyone.  Hope you enjoyed your musical journey with me through the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival!!  See you soon…

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Thursday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Thursday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

    Perfect.  Perfection.  These are words we often avoid for fear of overstating what might have been or things we might have witnessed.  However, when you begin to add up all the various parts and pieces of this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the resulting whole starts to outweigh the sum of those very parts rather quickly.  And summarily.  From perfect weather conditions to the perfect setting for such an endeavor, the votes for perfection are mounting.  And how about that marvelously stellar line-up?  If you came to hear bluegrass and roots and string band music of all types, then you walked smack into a perfect line-up for just that.  And what about the crowd, all those others gathered likewise in homage to grass music of all kinds?  If you wanted a group of like-minded, like-hearted folks with souls filled to the brim with excitement and enthusiasm and a willingness to party in the name of bluegrass, then you found the perfect fan-base, the perfect family for just such shenanigannery.  Ah, and Telluride herself.  What a picture perfect wee mountain town to host an event such as this.  For 43 years running now.  Must be a pretty perfect marriage of town and fest for it to have lasted so long.  And Town Park itself, you ask?  Well, talk about your perfect venue (especially with the brand new stage) and your perfect campground (especially with all the big camps and late night picks) for the 43rd Annual.  I bet you’re sensing the theme here by now, my friend.  So much went so right in so many ways this year in Telluride.  Which is why I even dare to use words like “perfect” and “perfection” to describe the experience.  And dare to do so without fear of reproach.  Here, let me share even more of that very festival with you now to help show you just how amazing and perfect it really was.  Onto the music!!!  

Thursday Highlights - “The Day of Living Legends”

Peter Rowan

    When you see the schedule for the day has Peter Rowan, Del McCoury, and John Prine all performing on the same stage in quick succession, it is hard to not refer to Thursday as “The Day of Living Legends”.  And, when you add Bela Fleck and Chris Thile (both legendary in their own rights) to the mix, the temptation to do so is all the greater.  As such, it was a magnificent day of music to kick off the whole shebang in Telluride this year.  What a Thursday it was, my friends.   So, let’s get to some of it, shall we?  How about we start with Mr. Peter Rowan?  According to the man himself, it was his 36th Telluride Bluegrass.  Quite the auspicious number to be sure.  And certainly one worthy of much respect.  Just like Peter.  As he sat down he called Telluride a “special gift [he] always look[s] forward to” and we all couldn’t have agreed more under that warm noontime Colorado sun.  Mr. Rowan and ensemble chose “Across the Rolling Hills” as their first number of the day, the clarion call of Peter’s voice ringing out over the crowd and into the surrounding mountains.  How familiar and how wonderful.  It’s always as if your favorite uncle is singing ballads to you and in an environment like this?  Well, it was all the more amazing, let me tell you.  Special.  That’s the word.  And legendary to be sure.  We are talking about the Peter Rowan, after all.  Next, we were fortunate enough to get a nice recording of some of Peter’s solo performance from the set, “Before the Streets Were Paved”.  Please enjoy, my friends!! 

Just lovely.  And poignant, too, no doubt.  It is a especially interesting when lovely music makes you think, right?  He followed this with the crowd favorite, “Doc Watson Morning”, crooning to us all once again as he sang the story of Doc Watson and his own feelings on the man.  If you’ve never heard this song before, hit up YouTube immediately…it is so gorgeous.  And it really serves to showcase Peter’s fantastic voice.  Not to mention his guitar picking skills as well.  A favorite of the crowd, a favorite of mine, too.  So glad to have gotten this one in Telluride!  Apparently Mr. Rowan was into doling out solo crowd faves that day as we got a really fine “Panama Red” as a follow-up to “Doc Watson Morning”.  This one very much excited the crowd, so many folks seemed to have been waiting for this song in particular.  It has a certain infamy to it after all.  And we all just ate it up.  A little on down the set the gents in his ensemble rejoined him for the remainder.  Even on didgeridoo, no less!!  At least for this very lengthy kind of trippy jam that they played.  I wish I had caught the title of this one…it was pretty incredible.  Mellow but jammed out to be sure.   One of my favorites of the set.  Next up, the mandolin player swapped his mando for a flute for the intro to “Vulture Peak”,  a song filled with wisdom handed down from Peter to the listener.  “It’s a hard lesson to learn living someone else’s life.”  Truth there, no doubt.  “It’s a hard lesson to learn…who’s to bless and who’s to blame?”  Not a question that I want to answer.  Not even remotely.  There was some more really lovely flute-playing throughout that added such a diaphanous other-worldly feeling to the song in counterpoint to Peter’s voice.  Marvelous.  Later still in his set, Peter and company played “Snow Country Girl”, that brooding ballad about life in the mountains.  It was a sweet and tender moment in a set filled with incredible moments of all kinds.  But that is Peter Rowan for you.  Always taking you on a journey through the feels.  Finally, Peter and the fellas brought everything to a close with adouble-whammy of a crowd favorite duo:  “Free Mexican Air Force” and “Midnight Moonlight”.  I’ve heard Rowan perform these songs many times and I still love hearing them.  How different each time depending on the venue and the surroundings?  How amazing were each of these here in Telluride?  My goodness!  Just superb.  A huge round of applause and thanks to Peter and friends on stage — what perfectly fantastic music.  What a set!  Thank you so much for coming to Telluride once again this year, Mr. Rowan!  Let’s hope to see you back again next year!! 

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

The Del McCoury Band

    We continued our day a bit later on with another living legend.  Why not, right?  Let’s be gluttons for the good stuff.  That larger-than-life guitar pickin’ gentleman from Cumberland, MD, Mr. Del McCoury and The Del McCoury Band were up on the stage!  I had just seen these fine fellows out in Maryland for DelFest and was anxious to see them again so soon, especially with the mountains of Telluride as a stunning backdrop.  We walked along the river path to the venue as the first strains of “Travelin’ Teardrop Blues” echoed through the valley.  Believe-you-me, it was a mighty perfect moment.  Right there with nature surrounding, the murmur of the river in front of us and the venue beyond, Del’s voice singing out to us over the greenery all about us.  Yes, that was quite a wonderful moment to be sure.  We hustled the rest of our way to the stage area so that we could catch the entire show — we didn't want to miss a note.  They followed “Travelin’ Teardrop” with “The Bluest Man in Town”, a sad song about a lonely fellow down on his love luck.  However, that doesn’t mean there wasn't room for some incredible harmonies between Del and his son, Ronnie.  Nor does that mean there wasn’t more than enough room still for some fabulous musicianship during the breaks from everyone.  Boy, can those gents play and play and play some more!  Such adept musicians each on his own instrument.  Next up we were treated to a Ronnie McCoury-led tune filled with fast pickin’ enough for one and all.  Lots of folks dancing to this one, as well they should have been.  I remembered this one from DelFest and was so happy to be hearing it yet again, and in such a place as this.  So, I joined the dancers for this one, letting go and glad to be doing so.  Sometimes and so often it is nice to do just that.  Let go and dance.  Especially to such great music!   Ronnie led the next number, too, “Body and Soul”, but this time it was a vocal lead.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my goodness does that man sound like his father in so many great ways.  What a perfect bluegrass song, too.  It has all the goods:  great vocals, perfectly balanced instrumentation, that quintessential bluegrass sound.  Bravi to all the men on that stage for this one.  Bravi!  Rob McCoury stepped up to the plate next to show off his banjo chops for “Lime House Blues”, another excellent instrumental and one Rob recorded on his solo album.  This tune provides such a great opportunity for round-robin hand-offs of the melody between solo instruments.  And they do it so deftly and adeptly.  Then, we were again we were able to grab some video of this performance for you, this time “Nashville Cats”.  Hope you enjoy!! 

Just love hearing Rob sing, even it ever so briefly.  Plus I do love hearing Del sing that one, as well.  Just all those numbers coming at you.  Fantastic.  A little later in the set, bassist Alan Bartram was up to the mic for the vocal lead on “You Win Again”.  So many amazing crooners in this band!  So much versatility as a result!  Ronnie had a supremely fine mando solo early on in this one that definitely served to showcase his skills, and, man, does he have some skills.  And who doesn’t love hearing Del hit those high notes?  Even as harmonies.  So good!  Speaking of Del and high notes, “Cold Rain and Snow” was a nice surprise to have come up in the setlist next.  And we all went nuts when he went for those high ones, too.  Plus, this song is such a crowd pleaser in its own right.  Jason Carter’s fiddling has always been the perfect complement to Del’s singing in this one and was that day to be sure.  Excellent form, just grand.  I really enjoyed Robbie’s banjo solo about halfway through as well — they don’t call that man “The Five-String Flamethrower” for nothing.  Later down the set, Del was back to the forefront for “Smoking Gun”, another big favorite, apparently if the yells from the crowd were any indication.  I certainly saw plenty of folks in the audience singing along with this one, as well.  Ronnie’s mandolin solo was of note here, a perfectly crafted bit of playing which he handed to his brother who, in turn, handed things to Jason Carter.  And all done so expertly, too.  Bravi, gents!  Such masterful playing!  Woody Guthrie’s “Ain’t A Gonna Do” with its talk about “cornbread and creek water” fired up next for us and with that great banjo beginning.  Fast pickin’ all the way through, this one is full of classic Guthrie lyrics.  From the new Del & Woody album recorded by Del and band, this one has become a new favorite of mine in a hurry.    And it was a big favorite of all those dancing madly under that incredible azure sky, so many happy people, so many hopping feet.  Later on down the line, “Vincent Black Lightning 1952” roared from the stage the motorcycle of the title.  The sad tale of love and loss…and motorbikes reverberated around the valley of Telluride and throughout Town Park like the voice of an old friend, delighting all those in attendance with the familiar tale.  It certainly made things feel more complete as the last of the notes died down at the end of things.  More complete, indeed.  Now we had a real, live set going, friends!   Del changed a broken E-string as the band picked a lively one behind him.  A pretty cool music moment and one worthy of remembrance.  And, then, to end things a bit further down the set, they picked the one-two punch combo of “All Aboard” and “High on a Mountain”.  One, a whizzbang roller coaster of intense bluegrass energy and the other, a staple of the bluegrass diet and always a welcome addition to any setlist, much less a Del Band one!  Both of them sounded spectacular and provided the perfect ending to a marvelously magnificent Telluride Bluegrass Del McCoury Band set!  “And the train keeps rolling and the world keeps turning…”  We rolled right along that train track and right up high on that mountain until we could barely take any more.  And then, just like that, it was all over and we were wanting just that…more.  More and more of that unbelievably incredible bluegrass sound that only The Del McCoury Band can provide.  A very big thanks to Mr. McCoury, to his sons, and to their bandmates.  Thank you so much for all the amazing that you give so freely to all of us.  That amazing music and community feeling that sustains us in our everyday.  Cheers to you gents for all that you do!!  Hope to see you again really soon…

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

    Walking back from our condo break, we heard those oh-so familiar sounds of Bela and the Flecktones soaring out from Town Park and through the town of Telluride.  How great to be hearing the Flecktones playing with Bela once again!  This being the last of a 14 show reunion run together after parting ways in 2010.  And we all couldn’t have been happier that this was the case.  The first couple of tunes were unfamiliar to me, but were full of that fantastic Flecktone goodness we’ve all come to really cherish over the years.  From Howard Levy wailing away on that harmonica of his to the Wooten brothers killing it in their own fashion and then to Bela on his ever-present banjo, what you get from this group really is a sound like no other.  Their music takes you places that other music doesn’t.  Just the overall timbre and texture is otherworldly and entrancing.  And the musicianship!  Stop the presses!  Wow!  Futureman Wooten threw down a particularly tasty drum intro to the third tune of the day, “Prickly Pear”, one featuring some seriously intense and awesome bass work from his brother, Victor.  So much groove and so much soul to this eclectic group of musicians.  How perfect a mix of just the right kinds of musical things.  And I love it when Levy switches to keyboards…just for that difference in sound!  We got the next one, “Life at 11” down on video for you.  Please enjoy (especially the surprise intro)!! 

See now?  Wasn’t that just some serious fun in Telluride?  A bit further on down in the set the band played us an old Flecktones standard which Bela dedicated to friend, Craig Ferguson:  “Life Without Elvis”.   And what a crazy adventure that tune is!  Some seriously next level music going on there.  So many notes from so many instruments and the way they all intertwine over and again.  And a lengthy adventure to boot — you get a lot of music in this one.  Make no mistake.  Next up was a tune named “The Longing” and this refers to what might have happened if Howard had chosen to stay for just one more tune with the band.  A mysterious intro from Bela on banjo began things for us as the remainder of the gentlemen entered in on their instruments adding to the mournful and somewhat eerie feeling of the piece.  A very different feel from many of the other selections of the night.  I really ended up enjoying this one quite a bit.  And, what a fantastic set from Bela and the Flecktones!!  So incredible to see them play together once again…and in Telluride to boot!!  So very grateful and thankful to the band for the opportunity!!  I’d love to see them back once more next year…how great would that be?

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Late Night - The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

    And so we made the trek down to the Telluride High School’s Palm Theater to get Dusty late night with The Infamous Stringdusters.  What a nice walk through town to the venue alongside fellow festivarians heading the same direction or to other late night offerings.  And what better a way to get things going the first night than with the Dusters?  “Big River” opened things up for us in a mighty fine fashion, this being quite the crowd pleaser and their version being no exception whatsoever.  Crazy good dobro work from Andy Hall here — no surprise, right?  Damn, but isn’t he amazing on that instrument of his!!  Jeremy Garrett’s vocals were simply spot on, as well.  An auspicious beginning to a super fun show.  “Cluck Old Hen”, an instrumental, followed and we got it all on film for you!!  Hope you enjoy this one, friends!! 

What a ride!  A dusty ride!!  What fine form already from this incredible band.  Later on down the set, they catered to my huge Pink Floyd side with “Fearless” knocking it right out of the theater.  Bravi to you gentlemen on such a great rendition…and I am particular about my Floyd!!  Travis sounded nice and strong on the lead vocals as did all the gents on vocal harmonies.  An appropriately grassy version of this classic rock classic.  Travis stayed on lead vocals for the next song, “It’ll Be Alright” which they took directly into “Well, Well”.  Great fiddle work from Garrett on “It’ll Be Alright” which provided a really nice complement to the vocals.  Some mighty fine guitar from Andy Falco in the form of a speedy solo which he handed to Garrett on fiddle with superb acumen.  Love the way this band does that so seamlessly.  Andy Hall took the lead on “Well, Well”, stepping up to the mic like he owned it.  Which he then proceeded to do.  This was a particularly quick version of this song, too.  Had a lot of people dancing and clapping and carrying on.  They followed this with guest Ronnie McCoury coming out to take the lead on “Blue Night”, singing in that clear, amazing voice of his with the Dusters backing.  Wow, pretty stupendous stuff.  Great fiddle playing from Jeremy all throughout as well as some seriously good banjo stylings from Chris Pandolfi.  Travis traded vocals with McCoury verse for verse and sounded damn great doing it.  Ronnie’s mando solo was a sound for sore ears to boot — love his style!  Ronnie stayed out there for a little Bill Monroe, “Wheel Hoss”, which became a free-for-all of musical awesomeness, bluegrass-style.  Panda gave a massively fantastic solo which he handed off to McCoury who ran with it himself.  Quite the round-robin of superb musicianship.  To close the set out, they gave us another doubled-up combo in the form of “Head Over Heels” into “Machines” which went over mighty well, I must tell you.  Huge, massive jam contained in “Machines”…well, it just was one big, crazy jam itself.  Lots of energy, tons of excitement and up-tempo ridiculousness.  Quite the way to end the first set of the first night of Nightgrass.  Damn, boys!!

    After a short set-break, we were all ready to get down with some of those Dusty vibes once again.  Who had my heady second set?  Well, the Dusters, my friend!  Andy Falco kicked things off for us on the lead vocals for “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” offering up the good advice of not second-guessing oneself.  Positive in message and upbeat in tempo, this was a great way to resume all musical activities at the Palm that evening for our second go-round.  Master dobro work from Andy Hall here, just making that instrument sing along as if another member of the band.  Travis Book stepped up to the mic to take the lead on the next selection, “Hobo Song”, crooning out a tale of the rails in that pure, Colorado voice of his.  Panda took the opportunity to shred a bit in this one pretty much straight out of the gate, flexing those mighty finger muscles of his to the delight of every ear in the crowd.  He handed the shredding off to Hall who took up the call on dobro.  More of that expert handing off of the solo line for which these fellows truly are infamous.  Further down the set, the Dusters invited friend and songbird, Nicki Bluhm, to the stage to join them on a few numbers.  Nicki, no stranger to singing alongside the Stringdusters, grabbed that mic and proceeded to belt out crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser, starting with “Amarillo”.  I have seen this act before and must say that it really is a perfect musical marriage.  Nicki really does add so much to the overall sound on stage, augmenting the Dusters’ texture and helping it transform into something new and more.  The timbre of her voice fits the ISD sound so very well and “Amarillo” was a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Jeremy Garrett’s fiddle solo was certainly of note in this one.  Fitting that a song about Amarillo would have an awesome fiddle solo in it.  Fitting, indeed.  The familiar and fantastic “Run to Heaven, Run to Hell” was up next in line that evening as night was slowly turning to next morning.  This one is bold energy epitomized and one that kept this crowd going strong despite the hour.  Incredibly good ensemble sound in this song, all instruments worked in concert with voices to produce a wonderful wall of bluegrass color and texture.  A little later still down the set, Nicki was still with the boys for a rousing rendition of “Big Road”.  Travis played us into the song with a phatty, phatty bass intro, really showing his chops on that bass fiddle he plays so well.  The man certainly knows his instrument, it must be said.  Fantastic dobro from Hall throughout the song providing an attitude-laden undercurrent to the sweet sass of Bluhm’s vocals.  Then there was Falco’s monster guitar solo that he threw down seemingly out of nowhere.  And just dominated it, too.  The breakdown at the end of the song erupted into incredible music coming from all corners of the stage:  instrumental work par excellence from each and every Duster on their respective tools of the trade.  The round robin was, in a word, epic.  I know, I know.  That word.  But, truly, this was some epic stuff, my friends.  Epically good.  And pretty damn perfect bluegrass jamming, if I do say so myself!  And then, as if the evening hadn’t been crazy freaking cool enough, Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass) joined them on the stage for a number which was pretty colossal.  If you are into that sort of thing, of course.  Which I happen to be and so were the rest of us.  “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” ended up being quite the perfect selection for this guest opportunity, Hoffman strutting his stuff both vocally and on mandolin.  And who doesn’t love playing music with friends, right?  The Dusters certainly looked as though they were…Paul, too.  Awesome stuff.  A bit later down the set we got a big helping of Phish in the form of “Bathtub Gin” or at least a really extended teaser for “Bathtub” during an extended jam.  The entire crowd was singing along, however, happy as clams to get some Phishy goodness from their Dusters.  Fabulous stuff, my friends, and so much fun.  Nicki Bluhm reappeared for a great version of “Not Fade Away” on the way to the end of the show.  More singing and more dancing for the audience, we all took the opportunity to just enjoy ourselves and the music.  Garrett opened up a big fiddle solo pretty early on making way for a big harmonica solo care of Andy Hall later.  Truly they were putting together some supremely fine music on the stage.  Panda and Falco had a nice duet moment facing off with one another and inspiring each other to new heights.  Not to mention the “Norwegian Wood” teases, too!  What a tight rendition of this familiar favorite!!  Finally a bit later and to end the set, Andy Hall was up to the mic for the lead on “Hillbillies”, the closing song of their Nightgrass show.  And what a big ending it was!  So much so that they came back for a big encore, too.  They sent the encore out to “all [their] amazing bluegrass friends here this weekend” and then announced it was to be “Uncle Pen”!!  How lucky were we?!?  And after such a massive night of music already!!  They sounded fantastic on this old classic and we all sounded pretty darn good singing along, too, if may say so myself.  How about that encore?  Wow!  So many big thanks to the band and to their friends and guests for a smorgasbord of super wonderful music all evening long and well into the early morn!  Such a great way to start the Nightgrass series at Telluride 2016, too!  It has been quite an amazing day of bluegrass in such a marvelous setting.   So very much for a first day…and we were all so very grateful.  What would the remainder of the weekend hold?  How much more bluegrass could one soul possibly take?  Well, I was about to find out…but you’re going to have to wait a spell for that!   

The Infamous Stringdusters with Ronnie McCoury

The Infamous Stringdusters with Ronnie McCoury


More Thursday videos:

Chris Thile

John Prine

Stay tuned for the remaining days of Telluride Bluegrass, everyone!!  More to come!!

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Friday

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Friday

DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday Highlights

Grand Ole’ Ditch

    Up and at ‘em Friday morning, we were ready to head to the Music Hall to catch some Grand Ole’ Ditch as they held their CD release party for their new album, Unwind.  We had the distinct pleasure of reviewing Unwind over the past few weeks and really fell in love with the album.  Great new and evolved sound from this high energy Cumberland band.  It had been almost a year since I’d heard Ditch play so I was eager to hear some of these new songs live.  Immediately they launched into the semi-quiet, slowly building intro of the title and first track of the album, “Unwind”, stepping off briskly into the song proper and into Craig Miller’s vocals.  Great way to start an album and an even better way to start this particular show.  Nice crowd in for the event, too…made for quite the celebratory and festive atmosphere.  Following the album’s order, they took “Unwind” directly into “Whippoorwill” with Luke Mathews at the mic.  I like this song for its tight ensemble sound between all the members of the band…it really gives the song a nice flow to follow.  I really dig all the energy changes throughout the song as well because they make for a rich musical topography.  So far, so great.  Sounding lovely, boys!!  The instrumental “Chester’s Breakdown” followed led by Jody Mosser on dobro.  They invited the indomitable Miss Sierra Hull out on stage to join them for this one, her ever-present mandolin in hand.  Here is how that magic went: 

Love all the guesting in at DelFest!!  It can make for such marvelous moments.  Later down the set, “Fiddlin’ Ray” Bruckman stepped up to the mic for the classic cowboy-feeling song “Long to Come Home to Thee”.  Nothing but “cowtown” all over this one.  And I love it.  It sounds amazing and definitely displays some of the breadth this band has developed over the years.  Ray also delivered up some truly nice fiddle along the way, why not?  Not to mention some of that sweet, sweet dobro from Jody and some serious banjo stylings from Craig.  And let us never forget those gents who keep the whole event driving along:  Jacob Mathews on bass, Ryan Hohing on guitar, and Todd Hocherl on drums.  The Ditch Rhythm Section rolls deep, what can I say?  What a swinging and enjoyable little number start to finish.  Bravo!  One of my faves from the album, “Copper Kettle Coal” came next and was followed by “This Time” both of which sounded damn near album perfect.  And I guess that would make sense this being their release party and all.  Great job, fellas.  The band was certainly loving their time on stage, bouncing around with their instruments, et al.  Love seeing that in a band.  Nothing like watching them enjoy their profession as much as they do, shared smiles and happy energy.  Ronnie McCoury joined them for “Dragon’s Breath” with Jody on guitar instead of dobro for this number.  Hard drivin’, fast pickin’ to be sure, this is sizzling hot fiddle tune led by “Fiddlin’ Ray”.  So much good soloing throughout this one by pretty much everybody.  Ronnie sounded magnificent on his mando, of course.  That man always brings so very much to the musical table.  Bravo, good sir!  They finished off the album a bit down the way with “Foolish Pride”, Craig back on lead vocals.  Another fast-paced ride through great bluegrass, this is a perfect closer for an album and a perfect way to round things out at an album release party.  Great fiddlin’ from Ray on this one as well as some super hot dobro from Jody.  I definitely dig on the vocals in this one…a lot of vocal texture at certain points making for quite the wall of musical sound.  Good stuff.  As an encore Ditch treated us to an old Dillards' song, “Old Man at the Mill” with Jacob taking the solo for most of it.  And what a treat!!  “Ladies step forward and the gents step back!”  And, just like that, the set came to a close to great applause from all of us in the Music Hall.  Bravi to you, Ditch lads!!!  Wonderful show and wonderful time.  And not to mention the wonderful album, fellas.  (Read my review of Unwind here.)  Thanks for all the great music, once again!!  Looking forward to more, my friends!!

Grand Ole' Ditch and Ronnie McCoury

Grand Ole' Ditch and Ronnie McCoury

Fruition

    “Meet me, meet me on the mountain.  Where the wind keeps blowin’ our blues away…”  …is precisely how Fruition’s main stage set on Friday afternoon began.  “Meet Me on the Mountain” is a song they recorded with The Grant Farm on an EP called Meeting on the Mountain.  Gorgeous vocals, lovely harmonies, such soulful solo singing, heart-grabbing in-your-soul instrumental grooving.  Oh, you betcha!  That moment when the instruments enter into the equation in full force:  intensely magic.  And I could listen to Jay Cobb Anderson croon all day long.  That man has some serious pipes and knows how to use them.  We also got a delightful mandolin solo from Mimi Naja before song’s end.  Does this band know how to make a musical entrance or what?  Awesomesauceness.  So far Fruition was kicking some serious tail at their first DelFest and that should come as no surprise to any who know these astounding musicians from Portland, OR.  They followed up with “Blue Light”, a super catchy song that is a personal favorite.  And, it just so happens, we nabbed it on video for you: 

What a way to keep amping things up, right?  That’s what I thought, too.  Bonnie Paine from Elephant Revival brought her washboard out on stage to join them up next for “The Wanter”.  Who doesn’t love a little washboard in their Fruition?  Especially in the hands of someone so deft at it as Bonnie.  Mimi was at the helm of this one spanking the lead vocals summarily.  So much good energy to this one — had us all dancing where we stood.  Some really groovy guitar work from Jay, too.  Fun times all around with this song…many thanks, guys!  Tyler Thompson drummed out a mighty fine intro to the following song, the Kellen Asebroek-led “Above the Line”.  It must be mentioned here that Jeff Leonard’s ever-present foundation on bass is like a good friend who chills with you all show just hanging and never letting you down.  It’s so very nice.  There was some supremely awesome interplay between Mimi and Jay on mandolin and guitar, respectively…several very incredible musical moments.    They took “Above the Line” directly into the title track from their new album, Labor of Love, Bonnie remaining on stage for another go round.  Jay was just meant to sing songs like this.  And, believe-you-me, there is no labor in loving this band.  Whatsoever.  A little later down the set Bridget Law from Elephant Revival joined Fruition for some fun while the rain poured down on the crowd.  A lot of people scattered but so many chose to stay in the downpour and dance their faces off.  “Beside You” is a sweet and tender Mimi-led love song that cascaded gently from the speakers and splashed joyfully down upon the smiling rain-soaked masses in front of the stage.  Some very lovely harmonies await one lucky enough to hear this one.  Just delightful, really.  And that fiddle!  Thank you, Bridget!!  Wowsers.  Then the rain got even worse but the people stayed on.  Through the thunder.  Through the wind.  Through the lightning.  It was an impressive display of human dedication to music and community.  Kellen was back up to the mic for “Boil Over” which is a sizzling hot roller coaster ride through some marvelous musical mayhem.  Sounds fun, right?  Well it most certainly is.  And was.  People were going nuts in the rain to this, running around and jumping and kicking like happy horses in a pasture.  It was really happy-making to behold.  Later on down the set we got a real treat with a Led Zeppelin cover led by none other than Jay Cobb Anderson.  And he sounded magnificent on “Hey Hey What Can I Do”, I mean, just like Robert Plant.  Fruition playing Zeppelin?  Are you kidding me?  Holy goodness!!  So good!!  Kellen was back up to the mic for a song he wrote called “The Meaning” also from their new album.  It was a mild and easy-going way to end their set and perfect for the rain.  What a show from Fruition at what will only be the first of many DelFests for them!!  Way to knock it out of the park both days, you guys!!  So amazing…so many thanks to you all!!  

Fruition and Bonnie Paine

Fruition and Bonnie Paine

The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

    Then it was time to get dusty with The Infamous Stringdusters on the main stage, DelFest-style.  The rain was still falling lightly as they took the stage, their friend and collaborative partner, Nicki Bluhm, sure to not be far behind.  Dust.  Rain.  Mud.  Let’s dust it up!!  The fellas kicked things off with a speedy “Peace of Mind”, an old favorite of mine and of many folks in the crowd who chose to sing along.  I ate up the round robin of instrumental work from man to man and back again throughout the song.  The musical texture as a result was fabulous as usual.  And those harmonies!  Some of the best vocals in the business today, in my opinion.  These boys sing and sing well!!  Big thanks to Andy Hall for just completely owning his lengthy and lovely dobro solo for me…I mean, it felt like a personal gift.  So I’m sticking to it.  The soft and sweet “Night on the River” followed “Peace of Mind” with Travis Book up to the mic for the lead vocals.  I’ll tell you what…that man can croon, too!!  And he sounded fantastic, especially juxtaposed to Jeremy Garrett’s supremely fine fiddling.  A light lucid daydream, this one, amidst the sparse droplets of water still floating down from the clearing skies.  Especially the spacey jam at the end, the kind that takes you places you want to go.  Like directly into the next song, for instance.  “Well, Well” sped the tempo back up again with Garrett taking both vocal and fiddle solos to task as the band gelled both songs together and then let rip with the new.  Chris Pandolfi threw down some serious banjo attitude on the ever-popular cover “Big River” (originally recorded by Johnny Cash and played to prominence by The Grateful Dead) which came next.  Talk about making that 5-string sing!!  Only to hand the reigns over to Hall on dobro so he could kick a little ass, too.  Love this version of this song.  So far, so wonderful with this Dusters set, huh?  We all sure thought so!  Later on down the set, Nicki did, indeed, make an appearance to sing with the gents.  “See How Far You’ve Come” was the first selection that they performed together, one of the tracks from the Dusters’ new collaborative album, Ladies & Gentlemen.  This is a gorgeous piece with lots of tasty dobro for those so inclined, which I am.  They followed this with “Run to Heaven” another track from their new album.  There is certainly a good musical marriage there between Bluhm and the Dusters.  A whole new elemental feeling is created on stage when she joins them — it’s pretty special.  Then they all channeled their inner Jefferson Airplane for a grassed-up version of “Somebody to Love” which sounded fantastic.  Bluhm simply destroyed those vocals so mad props to her, to be sure.  Andy Falco’s facial expressions during the jams on this song were priceless.  Clearly someone was having a magnificent time.  Weren’t we all?  Later on down the set we were treated to some delicious vocal harmonies in the form of a merrymaking Public Service Announcement by the name of “Let It Go”.  A super positive message of hope and help all sung to super awesome vocal music?  Why, yes, please!!  And thank you!  Then, a bit later on down the line it was time to close things out.  And just how did they decide to end their ridiculously good main stage set?  How about with a little “Fork in the Road” directly into The Dead’s “Jack Straw”?  Pretty durn sweet, huh?  And, it just so happens that we were able to get them both on video just for you!!  Also pretty durn sweet, right?  Well, here you go, good people…enjoy!! 

Many thanks to The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm for absolutely fabulous time!!  Cheers to one and all!!

The Infamous Strindusters

The Infamous Strindusters

The Del McCoury Band

    We walked back to the main stage area just as Del and his erstwhile band of musical magicians were firing up their set with “Traveling Teardrop Blues”, fast pickin’ abounding.  It had been a soggy day at DelFest yet spirits were all still higher than high given the influx of so much incredible string band music.  More than enough to sustain the soul for a few lifetimes, no doubt.    Rob McCoury and his brother Ronnie both had standout roles in this one complemented by Jason Carter’s fiddle stylings.  And then Mr. McCoury, Del, himself.  Where would we all be without the singing of Del McCoury?  That instantly recognizable timbre of a man whose music we love so intently.  Please, sing to us Del!!  Then it was time to slow things down a bit, waltz-style, with “Bluest Man in Town” only to speed them back up again with Scruggs’s “The Bluegrass Breakdown” which followed.  I love that good back-and-forth in a setlist from one kind of energy to the next.  So much fast and incredible musicianship in that “Breakdown”, too.  Rob was a blur on his banjo and Ronnie answered suit, mando-style.  And do you think Jason would stay silent?  Hardly!  He jumped into the fray, sawing away on that fiddle of his and kicking things into high gear.  How much fun was this??  Ronnie McCoury stepped up to the mic for the lead vocals on “Walk Out in the Rain” which came next in line that set.  Definitely a personal favorite of mine and they doled out an extremely fine version of it for us.  Besides, I just love to hear Ronnie sing, too.  He and his father sound so similar, but I understand how that goes.  And, of course, that similarity is in no way bad thing…the precise opposite, in fact.  Ronnie also decided to give us all a big ol’ mando solo while he was at it.  Hey, why not?  Supremely great stuff right there.  And now it’s time for another video!  This time?  “Limehouse Blues”, a Robbie McCoury-led instrumental piece.  Take a look and enjoy!! 

Excellence.  Just pure excellence.  But, then again, it is the Del McCoury Band we’re talking about here.  “Nashville Cats” followed “Limehouse” telling us that familiar story of music-making in Nashville and the challenges inherent therein.  Del sure hammed it up on the mic in between verses which was a hoot and holler.  How can’t you just adore that dynamic man?  A little later on in the set Alan Bartram took lead vocals for an old Hank Williams song called “You Win Again” strutting his own vocal stuff for us.  And that man sure can sing.  And that’s in a band filled with great singers.  So much different musical sound and timbre and texture from a band like this.  Ensures you could never, ever get remotely bored with their music.  Bored with Del Band??  Hardly!!  Later still down the set, they took one from their new album Del and Woody, a Woody Guthrie song called “Cornbread and Creek Water”.  Fast pickin’?  Whew!  You had best believe it!  Lots of super fast playing on this one driving it forward.  Such a pleasure and privilege to hear some of this old Guthrie come to light at the hands of The Del McCoury Band!  What a wonderful present.  Truly.  A bit down the set we were treated to some of that extremely fine and well-developed vocal harmony for which this band is almost infamous in “Count Me Out”.  Such lovely blend!  But also a song about drawing a seemingly much-needed line in the sand.  Sometimes those are necessary…even in bluegrass music.  Gorgeous song nevertheless and always a good addition to a Del Band setlist.  Next up was another song by the great Hank Williams:  “Train Wreck of Emotion”.  This one was filled with plenty of good pickin’ by one and all, making the song sing speedily along.  “I'm lyin' in the rubble cinder, smoke and ash.  My heart still poundin' from the impact of the crash.  I can see tomorrow's headlines, 'Heartbroke from blind devotion’.  Just another victim of a trainwreak of emotion.”  Now that, my friends, is some serious song-writing.  Bravo to both The Del McCoury band and Mr. Williams for such an enjoyable jaunt through emotional hard times.  Certainly proved a huge crowd pleaser to be sure.  Excellence.  “Working on a Building” made its appearance later on in the set, Del just nailing high note after high note all within a tight and polished vocal harmonic texture.  Always the catchy one, I noted many, many mouths in the crowd singing along to the words with Del and company.  We were all working on a DelFest, that was certainly the truth.  And a fan-freakin’-tastic DelFest to boot!!  Towards the close of this giant set of incredible bluegrass enjoyment and fun a couple of the true blue crowd favorites appeared on the scene.  First, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” came roaring out to the delight of the audience.  Talk about a preferred song, eh?  Everyone went nuts as Del invited us all to sing along.  We do love our “Vincent” after all.  It sounded just as wonderful as always, that tragic tale of love and motorbikes.  Which certainly prepared us all for the closing “All Aboard” which came a little later on.  As intense and explosive as ever, this one threw us all into a dancing frenzy as we listened to the entire band just nail this one to the wall (as usual).  What a way to end an incredible show such as this!!  No surprises here…just super happy and satisfied bluegrass fans.  The best kind, right?  A HUGE thanks to Mr. McCoury and his stupendous band for all of the amazing we just soaked in from that stage.  The reason for this fest in the first place, it is always a privilege and honor to see Del play alongside his sons and the rest of the band.  Bravi to you all, gentleman, and thanks again.  What a weekend so far and it was only halfway through!!  How exciting to think of Saturday and Sunday to come…but you’ll just have to wait a spell, alright?    

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

CLICK ON THE BANNER BELOW FOR OUR COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERIES FROM Friday @ DELFEST!

Keep your eyes peeled for Saturday and Sunday coverage coming your way soon!!

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