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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Saturday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Saturday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Tim O’Brien Band

    So, it was Saturday and Telluride was hopping.  I mean, the energy was threatening to jump off the charts, everyone seemed so excited and so into things.  It was as if the entirety of us gathered there for the bluegrass hit our festival strides all at once in a delightful festy singularity.  And it was this very energy I was tapping into when Tim O’Brien and band took the stage.  I am a big fan of Tim and his music — there is something special about the man and what he brings to the table that really kind of defies description.  As traditional as one can get on one hand and as whack ado and progressive on the other, you are always in for a wholly satisfying round of music when it comes to Tim.  Admittedly, this was my first time seeing him with his band so I was pretty pumped.  They kicked things off keeping busy with a bit of “Working” for us, that anthem to all the hard working souls out there toiling away at myriad dirty and tough jobs the world over.  “Anybody working is a friend of mine…”  So, that’s what it takes to be Tim’s friend, eh?  Work?  Got it.  Loved the overall groove to this one, a nice forward motion with a super catchy beat.  What a great way to get things going for this Tim O’Brien Band set!  The supremely mirthful and enjoyable “Pompadour” was up next in line, the witty tongue-in-cheek lyrics spurring countless smiles in the audience.  The song is as weird as it is wonderful, this homage to that oh-so-recognizable hairdo, the pompadour.  Replete with yodeling from Tim, “Pompadour” proved to be an instant crowd pleaser.  This song being a perfect example of the fact that you never know just what you are going to get from Mr. O’Brien and company.  This happened to be Tim’s 40th Telluride Bluegrass appearance and experience and he certainly brought all that to bear and more during his set.  And from the look of things, he was absolutely grateful to be back once more doing it all over again.  He dedicated the next song, “Family History”, to his Telluride family.  What a nice fella, right?  Exactly.  A song filled with wisdom about how to navigate the trials and tribulations of a past assorted with family, it certainly wasn’t short on great music.  Some supremely fine electric guitar work going on in this one, some really, really nice fills.  Nothing like keeping your grass funky, right?  And then, just like that, the whole show jibes back towards the traditional with “My Baby Don’t Love Me Anymore”.  We’d taken a walk down to the river to get a different angle on the afternoon’s music, the sound perfect to our ears from the stage over yonder.  We joined the throng of playful river-goers with their tubes and libations and dogs and children and smiles and laughter and rode out a couple of songs from that vantage.  There are so many different facets to Telluride and to the Telluride Bluegrass experience and the river culture certainly is an important one.  So much joy and mirth and merriment takes place along the banks of (and in, of course) the San Miguel River that runs through town.  It is a great energy to tap into and one that is immensely popular.  Then it was back to humor in the form of “I Gotta Move”, a song whose tale of moving woes and breakups contains many nuggets of truth for all, but all wrapped in a more light-hearted feeling musical framework.  Some lovely keyboard work from the piano player in “I Gotta Move”, again keeping our grass a bit funky.  As with all Tim O’Brien songs, once this one had finished you couldn’t help but feeling happily satisfied.  Playing more selections from his new album, Pompadour, we got the intense and slightly brooding “Whatever Happened to Me” next in the set.  This song had a dirtier, grit-rock sound and feeling to it, the perfect accompaniment to the introspective lyrics.  Of note, the guitarist threw down a particularly lovely solo at one point that served as a fitting counterpoint to Tim’s lead.  This one was certainly a thought-provoking number.  Bravo, Tim.  Can’ wait to pick up his new album (which I will probably download as soon as I am done writing this review).  A little later on in the show, the band delivered a mighty fine Tim O’Brien version of “Boat Up The River”.  This one was a super fun musical ride…I really got into the entire feeling of the song.  It rocked along to this hybrid string band instrumentation in fine fashion, proving a great dancing song if the crowd’s movements were any indication.  Always love hearing Tim play banjo, too, even though he is modest about his abilities there.  Unnecessarily so, in my opinion.  And then he picked up the bouzouki for the next number, an instrument near and dear to my heart.  It has such a great tone…like a giant mandolin and a mellow guitar all at once.  I do so love the timbre of that instrument, especially in the hands of a master like O’Brien.  And, playing his ‘zouk he sang us a song about an Italian gentleman from his youth who sold produce from a truck.  And this song freakin’ rocks!  So upbeat and happy and lively — it really has all you could want from a song that feels like joy encapsulated in a musical shell.  "Megna's" has been in my head ever since hearing it at Telluride.  I’d never heard this one before and I cannot wait to hear it again.  All you want to do is sing along to all the fruit and vegetable lyrics.  And dance.  And sing some more.  Still later on in the set we got another fantastic selection called “Lover’s Rise”, this one having a bit of a cowboy feeling to it.  Tim, on banjo once again, nailed down the lead vocals with aplomb, all of us just loving the sound of his voice.  Some really lovely vocal harmonies in this one as well, serving to make it all the lovelier.  Tim and band finished up their show with an encore dedicated to all those who have gone before, a rousing version of “Moses” with its chorus of “I might be gone in some lonesome graveyard”.   A nice, big closer, but I’m not quite done with Mr. O’Brien and band just yet.  I saved my favorite bit of their show until the last:  their cover of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing”.  This.  Is.  Amazing.  And we nabbed it on video for you, too!!  Please, please enjoy this wonderful bit of music, funkgrass-style: 

Tim O'Brien Band

Tim O'Brien Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

    Directly following the Tim O’Brien Band, Yonder Mountain String Band jumped on the main stage for their big set of the weekend.  Very much a part of the Telluride tradition, you could tell that much of the audience was poised and ready to see this band in particular.  Getting things going in classic YMSB fashion, their first selection of the day proved to be “All the Time”, setting the pace nice and quick straight out of the gate.  Jake Jolliff stepped up to shred on mandolin early on in the song, adding his unique style to the mix and making his solo pop.  Before the end, each member of the band would throw down some seriously fine solo work to the delight of the audience, especially Allie Kral’s fiddle line.  Such satisfaction and we were only one song in!    And then the marshmallows started up.  Again.  And that’s all I will say about that.  Keeping in the theme of classic Yonder, we got a fantastic “40 Miles from Denver” on film for you to view now.  Please enjoy!! 

Not too shabby, eh, friends?  Precisely.  “Sister Golden Hair”, that mighty rock staple by America, was up next, lead vocals care of Mr. Jolliff.  I happen to love this song already and the Yonder version has quickly grown on me.  Then again, I am also a big fan of grassed up versions of classic rock.  Dave Johnston had a big, bad solo on the banjo a couple of minutes into things which was answered by Allie’s own blistering fiddle work.  They debuted a brand new song that Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufmann had just written which was, as of that performance, unnamed.  A mellow and heartfelt Adam-led piece, this one seemed illustrative of the new direction the band is going in.  Very pretty ensemble work happening in this song — looking forward to hearing it again.  Ronnie McCoury and Sam Bush joined the band for the next song, “Rambler’s Anthem”, a Kaufmann lead.  Adam’s early guitar solo was just white hot.  That man is a serious guitar machine.  Not to mention all that friendly star power on stage with the band.  Like Sammy Bush and his phenomenal mando solo, which elicited a great roar from the crowd.  And Ronnie?  His monster contribution to the song?  And Jake?  How much mando can one person take?  So groovy, so nasty…what a breakdown between those three mandolin demigods!  And, as the song hurtled onwards, Ben even busted out a huge bass solo for us, rocking that instrument of his like a champ.  Then there was the giant, crazy jam at the end that proceeded to melt a bunch of afternoon faces.  Why not?  Next up the massively talented Miss Allie Kral sweetly sang us the lyrics of “Son of Preacher Man” as if we were all hearing them for the first time.  I love that they have upped her singing rep in band — her voice brings such lovely versatility to the overall framework of the group.  Yet another excellent grass version of a familiar favorite with tons of musical fills to send home that very bluegrass in the rendition.  Guitar, fiddle, banjo, mando, you name it.  They were all there in spades.  Later on in the set Jason Carter and Jerry Douglas appeared in order to rock out on fiddle and dobro, respectively, for “Black Sheep”, another standard of the YMSB catalogue.  This must’ve been the best version of this song I’ve ever heard!!  The band sounded great and really let their guests shine.  Jerry on dobro was divine, pure and simple.  Jason on fiddle?  Do we even need to ask?  Just amazing.  As always.  They really helped to transform this one into something special for Telluride.  Bravi!  They finished off their set with a rocketing “Traffic Jam”, with lots and lots of notes coming at the crowd in rapid succession.  Like those innumerable mandolin notes from Jake.  Heavens to Mercatroid!!  Allie and Adam, they both elicited an insane amount of notage, too.  Jerry and Jason had plenty of chances to shred as well.  Such good music and so much of it…right up until the end!!  The encore was an instrumental whose name I am unfamiliar with, however, I can tell you it was unbridled musical excellence all around.  Fast, precise, fun, this one ricocheted off the valley walls around us in concert with the nature abounding and bringing us all the way along to the inevitable whiz bang ending.  Bam!!  What a show!!  What a great performance by the band and by their friends and guests!!  What a way to spend a Telluride afternoon, no???  Many thanks to all of Yonder for such a fantastic set!!  

Yonder Mountain String Band with Ronnie McCoury & Sam Bush

Yonder Mountain String Band with Ronnie McCoury & Sam Bush

Sam Bush Band

    All hail the King!!!  The King of Telluride!!!  Yup, you guessed it.  Time for some Sam Bush Band all up in your business.  And this band doesn’t play around; they play supremely wonderful bluegrass music instead.  And they get serious about it, too.  Sam and the fellas kicked things off with “Play by Your Own Rules” a favorite standard SBB of mine.  Songs like this one really epitomize the Sam Bush Band corner of the bluegrass universe, the perfect example of the sound and stature of this music.  Nasty little solos from Scott Vestal on banjo all over the song…that man is a banjo beast.  Plain and simple.  I have nothing but crazy respect for Mr. Vestal and that 5-string of his.  Damn.  Don’t you worry, there will be plenty more about Scott Vestal as things continue.  Next up was “Transcendental Meditation Blues”, yet another Sammy classic.  Stephen Mougin sounded excellent on the vocal harmonies backing up Sam on lead.  Solos fell to many of the gents in the band, Vestal having a nice and lengthy banjo solo that was punctuated by Sam’s mandolin.  So precise and so well polished, this music.  Such a pleasure to listen to!  Then it was time to get ourselves all aboard so we could be “Riding That Bluegrass Train” with Sammy and band.  Sam and Steve had this really nice moment of interplay between them which Scott joined to make this triumvirate of sweet grass sound that was just about perfect.  From guitar to mando to banjo and back again and again and again.  So good!!  Let there be no doubts that this group puts on one helluva show wherever they go.  And they were just demolishing things at Telluride.  Completely.  Jumping off the “Train” we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of some “Working Man’s Blues”, Sammy on the lead.  Mougin’s guitar solo on this Merle Haggard classic was nothing short of exquisite, seeing as how that man is a badass robot programmed for “shredding” when it comes to guitar.  About like Scott on that banjo — what can’t that man play?  And play so very incredibly well?  I’d wager nothing, myself.  And this song was no exception to the rule for him as he tore up a solo opportunity summarily.  And then both of those men did it again!!  How much good music can one song hold?  Well, how about a huge bass solo from Todd Parks to sweeten the deal?  Why the hell not, right?  I was just adoring this set!  Sam is no stranger to positive messages, it’s true.  So the inclusion of the next song, “Everything Is Possible”, in the set came as no huge surprise although the song was new to me.  Here is how it went down in sound and color for you, friends: 

See, now don’t you feel that much better?  What a pick-me-up!  A little later down the set we got a nice Stephen Mougin vocal lead on “Hard Hearted”, that good ol’ one about the sad realities of love sometimes.  Big mando intro from Sam was the perfect lead in for Mougin’s vocals…Sam providing harmonies as well.  They took this one at a quick clip, not that they don't have the chops for fast pickin’ — Mougin certainly proved that point time and again.  Later still in the set was a massive crowd pleaser:  “Great Balls of Fire”.  We were all ready for a little grassed-up Jerry Lee Lewis that’s for sure and they delivered in fine fashion.  Hard drivin’ this one, lots of notes played very quickly coming from mando, banjo, and guitar alike.  Not to mention that rocksteady beat from Chris Brown.  They certainly made a crazy fun ride out of this one!  Farther on down this amazing set came a requested Jeff Black song, “Same Ol’ River”, which is a big favorite of mine and was of the rest of the crowd, too.  Always nice to get an old friend in a setlist.  Especially at a Sam Bush Band show.  A gorgeous solo from Mougin on guitar hallmarked the early minutes of the song.  I really appreciate the length of the average SBB solo — you never leave feeling unsatisfied from a musical standpoint.  Damn, it really was a good solo, too.  Bravo, Mr. Mougin!  Then, surprise!!  Jerry Douglas magically appeared on stage, dobro in hand, ready to join in this fun.  And join in he did with a completely baller solo of his own.  So freakin’ good, my friends!!  And as if that wasn’t enough, Bela Fleck came out to add himself and his banjo to the night alongside John Cowan on lead vocals for “Sail to Australia”.  And Jerry was still there, too.  Pretty crazy, right?  Sammy and John had some really, really tight vocal harmonies that were just lovely.  So easy on the ears.  What a supergroup on the stage!!  A true powerhouse performance.  How couldn’t it have been?  They finished up this giant set of theirs with some Bob Dylan, slowing things down to an intense rock’n’roll groove.  And then, the intensity builds and you get that well-known chorus:  “When You Gonna Wake Up”?  I’ve heard Sam and band do this one before and I’ll always be happy to hear them do it again.  Good songs are always worth hearing again, right?  Yeah, so Chris had this drum solo, too, you see.  And it was gargantuan in stature.  Just huge.  And awesome.  Just like all the music I had just crammed into my ears like a musical glutton.  Holy gods is this a phenomenal band!!  Thank you so so much to each member of the band for one of my favorite sets from Telluride this year!!  Everything you do is so very well appreciated!!  Can’t wait to do it all over again next year.  Or, hopefully, sometime sooner.

Sam Bush with Del McCoury

Sam Bush with Del McCoury

Leftover Salmon    

    Slamgrass time.  Telluride main stage.  Leftover Salmon.  Bring it.  It’s no big secret how much I love this band and, trust me, this performance only furthered those feelings.  By quite a long shot.  Having Salmon to Telluride has become tradition — back-to-back yearly invites are very rare.  But not for Leftover.  And let us all be quite thankful for that little fact!!  The evening there in Town Park was just about a wonderful as a person could ask for:  cool but not cold, clear moonlit skies, world class music on the new stage.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh, life was very good that night.  And how did they get things going?  Well, with a little “Take Me Back to My Mountaintop” action to be precise.  What better a starting song for the set?  You know, since we were all up in the mountains together, soaking up so much of the life set forth in the lyrics…so bucolic, so relaxed, so musical, so magical.  Take me back to my mountaintop, indeed!!   And, big surprise here, I’m going to go on some more about Erik Deutsch, his keyboard skills, and the overall additive qualities he brings to the band.  Because he was doing all that good stuff right there, right on stage.  Just owning those keys like a true boss and yet gelling seamlessly with the fabric of the band.  So glad to have him as a part of this madness we call Leftover Salmon.  Drew Emmitt was up to the mic for the next song, “Western Skies”, all set to croon to us in that oh-so Drew voice of his.  Songs like this and Mr. Emmitt were made for one another, as if that needs to be said.  But you get my meaning.  All throughout this song was the musical thread of Andy Thorn’s banjo line, note after note after note playing out into the night helping to weave the entirety of “Western Skies” together into a tapestry of musical genius.  Magnificent.  The familiar and fun “Liza” was next in line from the Salmon fellas that night.  Taken at a speedy clip, this one featured a visit from Mayor McCheese to the stage to grace us all with his mighty presence, all to the backdrop of Erik’s amazing keyboard skills.  Vince Herman, of course, on lead vocals sounded excellent as always…and, as always, it was like having a favorite uncle singing to you.  Pretty awesome, right?  Uncle Vince.  I like that.  Drew threw down a pretty sweet mando solo in this one about halfway through that was like pouring notes out of a bucket there were so many.  What a brute on that mandolin!  “Highway Song” followed “Liza” with Drew back up to the mic to take lead vocals, this being another song so well-suited to Emmitt’s strong vocals.  Great multi-part harmonies going on in the chorus of this one, which I am always a sucker for.  And also a really strong overall ensemble sound which provided a more than appropriate backdrop for Andy’s supremely killer shredding and Erik’s delightful keyboard dominance.  What a fantastic set thus far!  Next on the docket was the Great American Taxi song, a Vince-led number called “Weary Ramblin' Highway Man” to which the assembled gents on stage did great justice.  Erik Deutsch was there a minute in going to town on his keyboards, making them zing and sing and rock us all.  Alwyn Robinson was laying down some seriously ridiculous beats behind all this craziness up front.  A lot of different tempos switching back and forth depending on the feeling of the song at that point.  Masterful work.  I’d never be able to keep up!  And this song just jammed and jammed and jammed, Drew on electric killing a big solo reinforcing said jamming.  This one was reaching monumental proportions.  What a rush!  Later on down the set, John Cowan, the Prince of Bluegrass, joined them for a little time in the limelight on back-up vocals.  And the song?  Why, the Emmitt-led “Breakin’ Thru”!  Great harmonies between Drew and John all throughout this song, Cowan’s strong voice counterpointing Emmitt’s own. Most definitely an old favorite and crowd pleaser, this one was very well received by the audience who cheered their applause with loud voices up into the night skies above.  Andy Thorn wrote the next selection of the evening, a song about how lucky the band is to be doing what they do:  “Colorado Mountains Evermore”.  With its simply stunning banjo intro, this one is one that I dig very much.  And not just because I am from Colorado.  This song is an anthem about all the joys and merriments and contentments associated with the bluegrass, slamgrass lifestyle and way of living.  And I love hearing Andy sing, too.  Hard drivin’, fast pickin’ here as well…all you can eat and more.  This song just motors onwards and forwards at a blistering pace, each man keeping time on his instrument like a human metronome.  Greg Garrison’s bass line laid a stout foundation upon which all this madness could ensue.  Not an easy task whatsoever.  Kudos to Greg, no doubt about it.  John Cowan and Sam Bush were good friends to have on hand for the next number, John Hartford’s amazing “Steam Powered Aereo Plane”, which roared to life through Thorn’s banjo and ripped into the entire band spurring on one of the best renditions of this song I have ever witnessed.  But, wait…you’re in luck!!  Because you can witness it, too, through the wonders of this video!!  Enjoy, friends!!  (I am sure you will.) 

Wasn’t that just about perfect in every way?  Love that ride!  Their last song of the evening was to be “High Country”, a familiar selection from the Salmon catalogue and a very welcome addition to the evening.  After all, we were in the high country listening to “High Country” — what more could you possibly ask for?  Oh, how about the fact that Sam Bush was still out there with them killing it on fiddle?  How about that?  Not bad, right?  And then they tied an absolutely humongous ending on it and called it a night.  Booyah!  Or did they?  Not unless I had dreamt that Chris Daniels came out to join them all for a badass “Rag Mama Rag” encore.  They certainly weren’t going to let this evening die out with a whimper.  Alwyn’s drums boomed the opposite of that message, buoying up the evening until the very end and inspiring dancing in every set of feet present.  Vince was busy rocking the vocals summarily while Erik took the opportunity yet again prove how deadly he is on that piano.  Very.  I mean very.  Sammy Bush wasn’t to be outdone, himself, chiming in like a demon on his fiddle.  Beastly in all the right ways.  In all manner of speaking, this was a gargantuan end to a supremely gluttonous set, all of us sated to the brim on Salmon.  Delicious, delicious Salmon.  My stars, what a show this had been!!  My stars, my thanks, my eternal gratitude!!  Now that is what Telluride is all about, my friends!!  Thank you Salmon men.  Thank you for that set and all that you do.  Thank you.

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

Sunday’s Review from the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass inbound soon, friends!!

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Friday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Friday

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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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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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Friday

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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Friday

10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

    The trek from Colorado up to Montana and Big Sky’s Big Sky Big Grass bluegrass festival was a bit precarious to say the least.  Most of Interstate 25 in Wyoming was covered in a sheet of black ice with gusty winds blowing snow back onto the roads after the plows had gone by.  The landscape was a surrealist’s dream as we crept slowly northward, ever towards our goal.  Keeping it “low and slow” we eventually found better roads in Montana and scurried the last few hundred miles at night and then up into the dark and mysterious mountains and to the resort of Big Sky, finally arriving in a worn-out heap of gratitude.  Happy to be in Montana and happy to be at Big Sky Big Grass for the first time, the immediate excitement set in once we were there given the fantastic line-up and the world-class resort venue location.  We knew we were in for something special…but just how special was yet to be revealed to us.  Big Sky is a festival unlike the grand majority out there in that it is hosted by a ski resort.  This means tearing it up on the mountain skiing or riding during the day and partying your face off at night to some of the best bluegrass music on the planet — not a bad set-up, right?  We certainly didn’t think so, especially once things going in earnest.  The whole of the festival was centered in the resort with the main venue and all secondary stages occupying various conference/ballrooms or restaurants/bars around the resort complex.  This makes for very little walking between buildings which is nice given the obvious cold weather for that time of year and elevation.  Trust me, this makes a huge difference if you are staying at the resort.  Which leads me to another aspect of this festival…just how many locals and Montanans there were peopling it.  Will and I definitely felt like visitors from a foreign land, but, extremely welcome of course.  In fact, we met so many delightful and lovely people and made so many new friends (Ethan and Margo and Scully among them), that we instantly felt an integral part of this little festival (boasting somewhere around 800 people/tickets).  By the time the music started we were already beginning to understand the uniqueness of Big Sky and were certainly getting very into it.  Speaking of music, I think it’s about time we addressed just such a thing, no?  Oh, yeah!

Big Sky Resort

Big Sky Resort

Friday

Billy Strings - Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen - The Travelin’ McCourys

    The one, the only Billy Strings kicked the whole shebang off Friday night on the Missouri Ballroom main stage with a ripping good set backed by the Kitchen Dwellers and Pat Fiddle.  It was a dirty, nasty good showing of some bluegrass favorites, old standards, and all served with a healthy dose of grassed-up attitude.  Billy and the boys started their set with some fast pickin’ and a really fine “Big Mon” (Bill Monroe), Billy himself picking up the melody line at the beginning at then handing it off to Pat Fiddle for an on-the-money solo.  They took this directly into Billy on vocals with the classic “Long Gone” featuring Torrin Daniels on a mighty banjo solo.  Some more excellent fiddle from Pat led us into “Red Rockin’ Chair”, Billy crooning away for us in his powerful baritone.  Speaking of Billy, let’s talk about this gentleman for a second shall we?   Obviously on the younger side of this business, Billy is already a treasure of the bluegrass world.  That perfect combination of talent and skill and dogged determination, this man is clearly destined for great things in this musical realm of ours.  With a voice and singing style to match his other-worldly playing, he is the complete and consummate musician and every inch a professional.  We had a chance to sit down with Billy on Saturday for a fantastic interview (INTERVIEW HERE)…all of this and more came up during our time with our new comrade.  Personable and freely giving of his time, I am happy to call him friend.  And his performances at Big Sky encompassed all of this and more.  Later down the set, Billy belted out the lyrics of “You Won’t Be Satisfied” for us all over his own quick pickin’ as Shawn Swain provided some tasty mando licks to accompany, Pat Fiddle sawing away in style.  They followed this with the classic crowd-pleaser “Big Spike Hammer” which got us all singing along.  The next song was an original by Billy inspired by his brother living in Florida:  “Pine Trees”.  Yet another song dominated by Pat’s fiddling — man, can that cat play!!  It was like he was trying for the Sam Bush MVP Award or something.  Then the Kitchen Dwellers and Pat took their leave for a couple of solo numbers from Billy.  The first of these was “a nod to Doc Watson” according to Billy…a little flat-pickin’ in the form of “Beaumont Rag” which was a lightning-quick journey up and down the fret board with Billy in the lead.  Especially when he turned it up double-time at the end.  Flat pickin’?  Fast pickin’!!  Damn fine all around!  Slowing things down to ballad speed, Billy gently sang a gorgeous “Black Mountain” for us, this one absolutely showing off this man’s versatility.  Later on, “Meet Me at the Creek” was a powerful number that morphed into a nasty, nasty, amazing jam in the middle with everyone in the ensemble having a chance to step out and strut their stuff on their chosen instruments.  Supremely good organic music going down on that stage.  Definitely the reason we all do stuff like this.  Billy and the boys finished the set off with a sizzling hot “Little Maggie” with Torrin and Shawn trading off in counterpoint alongside Billy’s guitar.   One helluva closer for one helluva set!  Suffice it to say, my recommendation is to go and see Billy Strings play as soon as humanly possible.  You’ll only be doing yourself a favor.  A really big favor.

Billy Strings

Billy Strings

    Then we had the privilege of some Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen up on the main stage.  I was pretty psyched since this festival weekend was my first time seeing them live.  And I wasn’t to be disappointed in the slightest.  Definitely a tight, polished group when it comes to bluegrass music, Frank and his band put on one exquisite show.  Sadly, we entered the show a bit late, but I was instantly into the vibe as we walked in.  Clearly, Frank and DK had been killing it from the looks on everyone’s faces.  And I was jazzed to be in the mix…we arrived right as they were getting into “No Life in This Town” and they tore it up.  Incredible vocal harmonies over skilled musicianship?  You bet!  Definitely my cup of tea.  Frank?  Amazing vocalist and very fine mandolin player.  I was grateful to be getting to know his music to be sure!   The sad and soulful “Caz” came after which mellowed the mood a bit, but in a really good way from a musical standpoint.  I say this because it completely buoyed up the energetic and bright song that followed.  This featured some fantastic guitar work from Chris Luquette as well as some mighty mandolin stylings from Frank himself.  This is not to mention some supremely excellent banjo from Mike Munford with Jeremy Middleton’s stalwart bass line keeping everything up with a stout foundation.  Truly the ensemble sound of this band is wonderful.  “Wild Unknown” was to be Jeremy’s vocal debut on this number.  And it was fantastic.  Honestly.  But, we’ve got some footage of it for you so you can make your own call.  I bet you agree with us: 

Pretty damn good music, right?  Exactly.  Next up they played the dark and mysterious “Cold Spell” which featured some really amazing and tight vocal harmonies and then threw down a riveting instrumental with Frank Solivan on fiddle for that one.  This was the perfect showcase for each of these gents to show us what they’ve got on their respective instruments.  And showcase did they ever!  Next up was Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, at least Frank and DK’s bluegrassed-up version of it.  More tight harmonies awaited us here as well as a phenomenal overall treatment of this song.  My wife is a huge Orbison fan and I am sure she would have loved it summarily.  This one also featured a nice “Daytripper” tease — who doesn’t love a little Beatles in their Orbison?  Then it was time for Ronnie McCoury and Sam Bush to join them on the stage for something akin to a “mandopolcalypse” — so much mando on just one stage.  This was to be a theme throughout the weekend given the cast of characters in attendance.  What can I say?  Three incredible mandolin players playing “Dark Hollow” for us with Dirty Kitchen backing?  Not a bad way to spend your time, my friend.  Believe-you-me.  They followed this with an instrumental “Bluegrass Breakdown” which was face-meltingly hot.  Nothing but sizzle, my friends.  Ronnie and Sam and Frank in a rollicking round-robin of mando-goodness.  What a way to finish up a set!  Holy goodness and great balls of fire!!  Fire hot right up until the end.  And a perfect way to get us ready for the next act, right?  From one bluegrass great to another…I’ll take it!

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen & Sam Bush

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen & Sam Bush

    And then it was time for some Travelin’ McCourys action in the Missouri Ballroom.  And it was apparent from the very beginning notes that they came to bring it that night.  Of course, I don’t think such a thing as a “bad” McCourys show exists in this Universe.  And I am so grateful for that very fact.  Friday night at Big Sky was no exception to this.  And how crazy was it that we were seeing these bands in a crowd of far fewer than 1000 people?  I mean, it was like a private concert.  But, hey, I’m not complaining.  At all.  The McCourys popped the cork for their set with a walk through the Grateful Dead with “Cumberland Blues”.  Rock’n’grass through-and-through, this one never ceases to satisfy the musical palate.  “I gotta get down…I gotta get down…”  Yeah, let’s get down, shall we?  With Jason Carter tearing things apart on fiddle there was nothing blue about this “Blues”.  And those oh-so-characteristic McCoury harmonies — refined and polished.  Shivers.  Every time.  And never mind that speedy, speedy ending breakdown!  Wowsers.  They followed up “Cumberland” with a Ronnie McCoury song, “Somebody’s Gonna Pay” which featured a supremely fine mando solo from that same gent.  “Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean” (as made famous by Waylon Jennings) was next in line that evening, a Jason Carter lead on vocals, and a personal favorite of mine.  I just love the driving guitar and banjo lines throughout from Cody Kilby and Rob McCoury, respectively.  This song just has such movement and focus to its forward motion.  And Rob was killing it on the banjo in this…right up until his brother stepped up and did the same on mandolin.  Ah, those musical families, right?  Makes for such a great aural experience!  And Cody…wow.  Just wow.  That man is a magical music-making machine!  And he makes it look so easy and effortless, too!  (Although it obviously has taken years of hard work for such mastery to occur.)  Another favorite of mine, “The Shaker”, came along next in the setlist and we managed to capture a really great video of it for you.  Which we will share with you now…enjoy!!  VIDEO

And that’s why they get paid the big bucks, folks!  Damn fine music from some damn fine musicians!  Later down the set they gave us their version of Nick Lowe’s “I Live on a Battlefield” yet one more favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  A sad and mournful song sung by Ronnie, this one is lovely on many levels.  Great melody line and poignant lyrics peppered by top-notch and gorgeous harmonies.  All sitting atop the foundation of some superb instrumental musicianship.  Next up, Cody meted out a beautiful guitar line which opened up into a fast pickin’ instrumental giving way to John Denver’s “Old Train” sung my Alan Bartram.  I sure have grown to love Alan’s voice over the years and with good reason.  The man can sing and sing well.  And who doesn’t love a little John Denver, right?  Especially high in the Rocky Mountains?  Precisely!  Later on down the set they invited pal David Grismanup to join in the fun on mando (of course).  They played Grisman’s own “Lil’ Samba” and played it with just the attitude and sass that we’ve come to expect of that tune over the years.  Grisman was clearly having fun guesting in and treated us all to some excellent solo work.  Not to mention Jason Carter and Cody Kilby’s solo work as well.  Holy goodness!!  This is always a fun tune to be sure.  A walk with John Hartford came over the next two songs:  “Natural to Be Gone” and “Back in the Goodle Days” both of which featured Sam Bush as a guest on mandolin.  “Natural” saw the addition of Sam as a boon-and-a-half.  Great solo from him…really stellar.  Does that man know his way around a mandolin or what?  Kudos to Jason for his soulful singing on “Goodle Days”, too.  What a fantastic band, right?  I mean, just holy crap are they good!  So much attitude in this one.  John, I feel, would be proud.  Especially of Sammy.   Marvelous.  Mandolin.  More, please.  A bit on down the line was a walk with the Grateful Dead for a couple of songs:  “Cold Rain and Snow” and “Loser” both of which sounded magnificent.  Drew Emmitt crooned out the vocals for “Rain and Snow” and he and Sam stayed out there until the end of the set.  Grisman rejoined the clan on stage for “Wheelhoss” which turned into “mando mayhem” once again.  So much mando!!  Crazy fast playing, too!  I have no idea how human hands can move so quickly.  After an “On the Lonesome Wind” encore they finished the night with a big, bold, boundless “Travelin’”.  So quick, such infinitely fast pickin’.  Crazy good on so many fronts and always such a great way to close out a show.  “Bye, bye, so long, farewell…”  Yeah, that’s a closing song, alright.  And the McCourys and friends brought it all to the very end…amazing harmonies, supernatural playing, and that tight, professional polish that is the very Travelin’ McCourys.  And a huge ending jam that saw every musician on stage show off their insane talents through sizzling solos.  Incredible.  What a supremely wonderful night of music.  Thanks to all the musicians and all those who helped put on these shows!!  Big Sky Big Grass:  so far, so great.  If this was the way the remainder of the weekend was to go, then we were to be very happy fellas indeed.  And we still had two days to go.  Giddyup.      

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys

Stay tuned for Saturday and Sunday!!

The Travelin' McCourys & Friends

The Travelin' McCourys & Friends

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DelFest 8 - Festival Experience Archive - Friday

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DelFest 8 - Festival Experience Archive - Friday

DelFest 8

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday

It’s one thing to wake up on a Friday morning, excited at the prospect of the weekend ahead, filled with anticipation for what-might-be.  It’s another thing entirely to wake up thusly at DelFest with a head still teeming with so much music from the day before.  I mean, by the time your eyes open on a DF morning, the last strains of Late Night have barely even faded.  And this year’s Friday morning was no different.  The weather corrected itself from the previous nasty to that delightful, sunny, easy, breezy, beautiful climate that we all have come to yearn for during our annual Memorial Day gatherings in Cumberland.  As if DelFest could get any better!  And it sure did that day when it came to music.  So it was on our way to the Potomac Stage for a little Grand Ole’ Ditch to get the party started right.  To get it started quickly, right?  (If you catch that reference, I applaud you. Heh.)  Handing out buttons and meeting all sorts smiling folks along the way I could already tell I was in for another wonderful day with Del and all his invited guests.  

Grand Ole’ Ditch

Grand Ole’ Ditch.  Cumberland boys.  Hometown heroes.  Playing their very first DelFest and having the distinction of being the first local band to play the festival.  And it was my first time seeing them.  Lots of firsts going on there.  And this seven-member band certainly wowed and delighted all of us gathered to see with rollicking sounds of bluegrass-gone-rock-gone-hillbilly stomp.  I instantly dug their sound — just a fun band to see live, plain and simple.  “Pigeon Eatin’ Catfish” is a favorite around the TLS offices so we were jazzed when they played it that morning.  With a slightly similar cadence and feel to Charlie Daniels’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, the song is danceable to say the very least and features some excellent harmony execution.  Such a good and driving sound there is to this band that Will commented he had a hard time taking pictures and trying to keep his camera steady for wont of dancing:  you see the lengths we go to to get you the goods?  Heh.  G.O.D. (I just like abbreviating it that way) finished with a bang doing much justice to their DelFest debut.  I instantly knew that I’d be back at the Potomac on Sunday for their second set of the weekend.  Bravo, boys!  See you then!

Mandolin, Mandolin, and More Mandolin - David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury, and Sierra Hull

So we raced from Grand Ole’ Ditch over to the Music Hall to catch a small bit of this unique and powerhouse-led workshop with three of the finest players alive today:  Grisman, McCoury, and Hull.  Hailing from three distinct generations of bluegrass and certainly possessed of three rather different styles, the anecdotal material they doled out alongside some very fine and illustrative mando picking felt like being privy to some secrets of the ages mixed in with humor and smiles and laughter.  For instance, Dave enlightened us with this trick of the trade:  he figured out a long time ago that the fewer notes you play, the more you get paid per note.  Wise words for gigging musicians, especially mandolin players!  And the musical selections were of great interest as well, straying far from just traditional bluegrass tunes.  For instance there was a “Minor Swing” that was pretty fantastic — great energy to that swing feel and the entire fabric of the melody afloat on a sea of minor notes and chords.  Just lovely.  Almost needless to say the playing from all three musicians was superb and it was a real privilege to be able to watch the intertwining of such skill and acumen on one stage and from these three.  I know that I heard quite a few folks reminiscing about this workshop all weekend.  Great job you guys and many thanks for such an educational look into the mandolin and its chosen players.

The Brothers Comatose

Back out into the sunshine and returning to the Potomac Stage, we all strolled over to check our The Brothers Comatose for a hot minute.  We walked up to a mostly seated crowd, chilling in the warm light, and soaking in as much good string music as the sun.  “Pie For Breakfast” was the first song we got and I was glad, it being one of my favorites.  I can really get behind the message, you know?  And it was a DelFest-worthy version to be sure.  I had seen the Brothers for the first time at WinterWonderGrass this year in Vail and had really enjoyed their sound.  So it was nice to get to see them in an entirely different setting, like a warm place with no snow.  After catching a quick couple of numbers more we hustled off to Larry Keel on the Main Stage — damn you conflicting schedule!!  Heh.

The Larry Keel Experience

On the heels of my first Larry Keel Experience the night before I was ready for more grassy greatness, Larry-style.  Walking up to him covering the Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women”, therefore, was pretty damn perfect.  Twangning into the mic and guitar twanging in his hands, it was a wholly excellent cover with a particularly weird and funky jam slammed in the middle and after which Larry thanked Ger Bear.  Another really unforgettable DelFest moment from DF 8.  A Will Lee-led “Fire Line” came further down the set featuring some hot pickin’ by the banjo player.  The remainder of the show was just as funked-out and dirty as you’d expect from Larry, Jenny, and their buddy, Mr. Lee.  Definitely an Experience I am looking forward to having again, and soon.  Hopefully in Colorado?

The Del McCoury Band

The reason for the season.  The man, the myth, our adopted grandpappy.  And his band of merry makers…and dastardly bluegrass daredevils.  All gathered for another Main Stage delight the likes of which only they can deliver.  And talk about your home-field advantage!  “Travelin’ Teardrop Blues” sparked the night to life with Del leading strongly on the vocals.  Great selection for an opener.  Ronnie’s tune, “The Quicksburg Run”, came along down the line and was a pristine example of that oh-so-fabulous thing we refer to as “fast pickin’”.  From Ronnie’s mandolin lines to Rob’s hot banjo runs, this was a chasing, bracing tune I’d very much like to hear again.  Del was back to the mic for the conflicted “Hard on My Heart” — the story of one man’s struggle between his desires and his common sense.  Not sure that anyone reading this could relate.  No, never.  Heh.  “I can’t come up to her lifestyle and she can’t come down to mine.”  What a perfect line — love it.  And this version had some great instrumentals, as to be expected — Ronnie in particular.  Rob McCoury then offered us some straight, sizzlin’ pickin’ with a tune he’d written, also featuring Jason Carter on some wonderful fiddle runs.  Anyone who knows Del knows of his ties to country music’s capital, Nashville.  As such, “Nashville Cats” shouldn’t surprise anyone as a song selection for a McCoury setlist.  However, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised during a show when you get these little gifts on song from your favorite musicians, never knowing if or when or what order they might arrive in.  And those “Cats” arrived quite well!  Jason Carter then dedicated a steam-powered-saw of a fiddle tune to The Broomestix and urged us all to go and see this new and upcoming band.  It was a hell of a dedication to them, that’s for sure.  One thing that occurred to me as I watch The Del Band play that night is that there is so much showmanship up on stage in addition to the actual music, but I had never really considered them a “show band” before.  However, the orchestrated movements and rearranging of the line-up, etc., all these things that add to the overall value and meaning of a show.  The vibrancy and kinetic nature of each member of the band as they interact both spatially and musically is infectious and palpable and leaves one yearning for more.  This aspect of this marvelously incredible band is certainly worth noting here — I will definitely consider them a show band from here on out.  Alan Bartram offered up a sad and soulful “Teardrops In My Eyes” whose lyrics were a little betrayed by the upbeat tempo of the backing tune.  Always love to hear Alan sing.  Jim Wriggleman was a lucky fellow to have “She Can’t Burn Me Now” played for him per his request.  Del was fond of taking requests as always and good Jim got to be the lucky one.  Way to go, Jim!!  Who doesn’t love them some Del voice??  I mean it!!  The “Smoking Gun” that he gave us that night most indubitably featured some fine, fine Del voice — that tenor timbre we’ve all come to love and want at our shows.  And then it was fan favorite time:  “All Aboard”.  Need I say more, really?  Well, I will.  It was chilling.  And haunting.  And amazing.  All in one.  Very well-executed, too.  Best live performance I have seen of that song to date.  And I am anxious to see more.  Del co-wrote the subsequent “Never Grow Up Boy”, a Peter-Pan-esque cautionary tale about resisting the maturation process through music and bluegrass.  I think that sounds like lovely advice, don’t you?  Thanks, Del!  Reprising a choice from the day before, the next song was “Vincent Black Lightning 1952” which is always, always a great one to hear.  Then the Dawg himself came out for a few numbers to include an old Monroe Brothers tune, “We Can’t Be Darlins Anymore” by Flatt and Scruggs, and one that Grisman wrote in honor of Red Allen called “Pigeon Loose”.  What a treat to have Dawg up with Del and the boys!!  Each one was rife with incredible playing as you can imagine and having Ronnie and Grisman trading off was a sight to see.  What a Friday night set, you guys!!!  Thanks, so much to Del McCoury, his sons, and their friends for making so much beautiful music and for sharing it with all of us.  Already jonesing for Sunday!!

Late Night - Greensky Bluegrass

In many ways Greensky’s late night show could be considered a somewhat mellower extension of the monster they unleashed on the Main Stage the night before.  Opening with “Demons” the sine wave roller coaster began as it gave way to an explosive “Leap Year”, Anders’s all-too-familiar dobro notes ringing out to herald in Paul’s song.  Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth joined them on fiddle for a smokin’ and speedy “Breadbox” which was fun for all of us, almost as much fun as it seemed for the band.  This was not the same band that was snubbed at Merriweather, this was not the same band that was reborn in Richmond, this was a new band full of the joy of playing and of sharing that music with others.  And it was awesome to witness.  What does a band look like that’s rebuilt its own soul?  Like these fellas completely on top of their collective game.  It just happened to be Bruzza’s birthday that day so they band gifted him a bunch of solos (which was a delightful thing to do) such as “Letter to Seymour” and “Blood Sucking F(r)iends”.  And we even sang “Happy Birthday” to him — what a jolly time it was!!  There was a nice long “All Four” sammiched into the mix as well as “Worried About the Weather” featuring Nicky Sanders of The Steep Canyon Rangers.  Later on, the band slowed things down a bit with “Jaywalking” which had some intense moments in the latter half of the song.  “Wheelhouse” fast-picked things right back up again with some particularly adept playing from the birthday boy, himself, not to mention the other lads in the band.  As the set wound to a close we got a lengthy and excellent “Broke Mountain Breakdown” which went into a “Don’t Under Do It” Reprise connecting this show to the previous evening’s all the more.  And then an encore of all things!!  And they made us all want to “Shout!” (Kick my heels up and - Shout! Throw my hands up and - Shout!  Throw my head back and - Shout!  Come on now - Shout!  Don't forget to say you will!!). That’s right, that was the encore.  Heavens to Murgatroyd!!  No notes!!  

Friday you set the standard even higher!!  Saturday?  Looking at you, Saturday…


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