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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

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

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

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

Telluride House Band

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

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

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

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

The New Stage

The New Stage

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

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - 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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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

The Sam Bush Band

    Back at the main stage at DelFest.  Precisely where I wanted to be.  After a day already full of incredibly wonderful bluegrass music it was time to soak in a little of the Sam Bush Band and their special brand of the same.  Walking towards the front of the crowd we were greeted with the sounds of “On the Road”, Scott Vestal’s lead in on banjo like an old friend taking you to something amazing.  And then Sam starts in on the vocals and, just like that, we were off to another incredible ride through a fine set of grass.  A song filled with advice from a life spent long on the road, it was a pretty perfect way to get things going.  And talk about a band just filled with phenomenal musicians.  Always means you get some seriously kick ass bluegrass as a result, Sam Bush Band style.  From Scott on banjo to Stephen Mougin on guitar to Sam on mando and back around again, there was so much goodness going on in this number.  Mandolin was the name of the game introducing the next song up, “Play By Your Own Rules”.  Yet more advice coming down from Uncle Sammy, I think we’d all love to play by our own rules a bit more.  Some lovely duet work between Sam and Stephen in between verses — I do so love the sound of this band.  The King of Telluride certainly doesn’t disappoint.  Then it was all time for us to be “Riding That Bluegrass Train” apparently.  And why not?  All aboard, in my opinion.  And what a ride it was with Sam at the controls!  Yet another bluegrass classic played to the nth degree.  Man, do these guys always put on a fantastic show!  Sammy thrashed out some mean mando for us during this one showcasing his singular skills.  However, Mougin and Vestal were not to be outdone, throwing down some serious stylings of their own on guitar and banjo respectively.  A round robin of skill and talent this continued for some time, man to man to man until Sam launched back into the vocals and kept that train a-rollin’.  A personal favorite of mine was next in line that set and, lucky for all of us, we got it on video for you.  Hope you enjoy “They’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” as much as we did! 

Love that song!  And how can’t you, right?  I mean, it’s Sam we’re talking about!!  Following “They’re Gonna Miss Me” we got a supremely enjoyable “One More Love Song” and then some quick pickin’ in the form of “Hard Hearted”, Mougin and Vestal tearing it up on their respective instruments.  Nothing like being caught up in that singular style of bluegrass attributed to Sam and his band — they really take you places with their music, to other times and through the stories of their songs.  The completely entrancing instrumental “Greenbrier” was next in line, with each member of the band shining through on their chosen instrument like a miniature star, creating a fabric and musical landscape so easy on the ears and soul.  Truly, each of these gentlemen is a virtuoso in his own right and that is most readily apparent in jams like “Greenbrier”.  Lengthy solos from Vestal, Mougin, and Bush made for an even more robust piece of music for our senses of hearing to savor as we all danced and swayed like the trees dancing in the wind all around.  Goodness!!  And Todd Parks laying down that bass line like a champ all set long.  Hells yeah.  “Midnight on the Stormy Deep” saw Del, himself, come join Sam and band for a song from “the old country”.  What a vocal duet between McCoury and Bush!  Just lovely!!  Later on down the set Sammy gave us his version of “Great Balls of Fire”, one of which I am sure that Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud.  I’ve heard Sam do this a few times before and I just love the energy he brings to it and the energy that it brings to a setlist.  Not that a Sam Bush Band setlist is usually lacking in energy — just the opposite.  Finally, they closed their set down a bit later on by asking Ronnie McCoury to come and join them on stage for Bob Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up”.  Ronnie remarked as he got situated that he was getting to “play with [his] hero” to which Sam Bush replied, “is David Grisman here?”  We all got a nice laugh out of that one.  Well-played, Sammy.  Well-played.  And “When You Gonna Wake Up” was well-played also…finishing things off with a little rock’n’roll, McCoury in support.  A good message to end their show with as well, methinks.  Music certainly exists to make us think from time to time as well as entertain.  Sam, apparently, thinks the same way.  Never a bad time with Mr. Bush and his baller ass band and this was certainly no exception.  So many thanks to the man and band for so much wonderful music, as always.  Sure was making me look forward to Telluride!!

The Sam Bush Band

The Sam Bush Band

Railroad Earth

    As the darkening evening air descended around us that Saturday night, we all made our way up to the main stage again for some of that excellent foot-tappin’ Americana string band music that only Railroad Earth can serve up.  The setting was just perfect for more great music and we all knew that RRE wouldn’t disappoint.  They launched into the easy-going “Storms” to get things started off right for us.  The instrumental opening grew steadily to life and then Todd Sheaffer’s voice emanated from the speakers in soft waves of comfort and beauty.  It’s like having a favorite uncle sing you gently through life.  And, of course, Tim Carbone’s fiddle, always there for you akin to an arm around the shoulder made of the purest and most gorgeous musical texture.  John Skehan then added his own brand of lovely to the mix on mandolin, richening the entire piece further.  An auspicious beginning to be sure, my friends.  Carey Harmon laid down a big, big beat on the drums as introduction to “Seven Story Mountain” which followed “Storms”.  Todd thanked us all over the mic as the song built and built relaying that it was a pleasure to be at DelFest.  I was very much inclined to agree with him.  They continued to build and flesh things out for several minutes in anticipation of Todd’s vocal entrance.  Makes for quite the satisfying musical experience.  And, throughout, that metronomic rhythm from Carey.  Magnificent, thus far.  And only getting better.  I am kind of biased towards the next song they played given where I live, however, that does not negate how good the song really is.  Upbeat and filled with great banjo from Andy Goessling from the very beginning, “Colorado” speaks to one of my favorite times in my favorite state, summertime in Colorado.  Hard to hate a song about such bright subjects, right?  In fact, you down right fall in love with it.  Carbone’s solo in the middle was like a big, fresh breath only to be answered by Skehan on mando, laying down his own fine and extensive solo work.  And then they traded back again, a round robin of solo prowess.  It is just this kind of skill and acumen that is shared amongst the members of the band that makes one of their songs or shows so entertaining.  If you love really good music, that is.  If you don’t, well, let’s just hope that’s not the case.  A little on down the set they gave us the slightly melancholy “Mourning Flies”, the soft and lilting guitar solo intro setting the tone for this one.  Enter Carbone’s gentle fiddle over the top of the guitar for a minute or two.  And then enter the rest of the band for that kind of slowly intensifying introduction for which this band is known.  This was a lengthy version of the song coming in at 11:18 with plenty of opportunities for each gent to strut his stuff on his chosen instrument.  Which they took and ran with, believe you me.  They took “Mourning” directly into Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” next, the energy of the new song echoing the previous one.  Mellow was the name of the game for the moment, all with the undercurrent of intense emotion and feeling.  This was American music, through and through.  The music of our folk, our people, and played by those who really get it.  What a treat!!  The crowd certainly enjoyed the gift of this one as Todd nailed the vocals down expertly as well, of course.  Carey even had some solo time a couple of minutes in…but vocal solo time.  Not so often we get to see that.  Pretty great right?  Sadly there was a huge power outage to the main stage area that shut things down for a few minutes and brought “America” to a premature close.  They were able to get things repaired quickly enough, though, and the show kept right on going.  “Walk Beside Me” (which featured a phatty, phatty bass solo from Andrew Altman) followed “America” and went directly into “Birds of America” which we were able to capture on video for you to check out.  Please enjoy!! 

Pretty big “Birds of America” huh?  Hope you liked that little piece of the show.  Which kept right going as “Birds” went directly into the fast pickin’ “Stillwater Getaway”.  Talk about a tune to get your blood moving!  Amazing solos all around…once again.  Are you sensing a theme?  Because there surely is one when it comes to Railroad Earth — that of exquisite and exquisitely-played music.  What a show it had been.  But, all good things must come to a close now and again, sadly.  However, happily for us, Sierra Hull was out to join them for “Bird in a House”, their ending number.  An old favorite of seemingly most people in the crown, folks were singing along and dancing and enjoying this Railroad experience through to the very end.  It sounded magnificent as it rang out over the crowd, bouncing off the bluffs behind us in the dark.  A truly lovely ending to a truly lovely show.  Many thanks to all the members of the band for such a special evening of music at DelFest 9!!  Bravi, fellas, bravi!!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

The Travelin’ McCourys

    This band has to make some of the absolute best music on the market today.  Hands down.  Every time I see them they are just that much better.  And getting better all the time.  Each of these men is a master on his instrument, proven many times over with awards and accolades…and the applause of countless crowds the country over.  Speed?  You got it.  Agility?  You betcha.  Precision?  But of course!  Skill, talent, acumen, ability?  You’ve got that right, my friends.  And the McCourys have got it all…in spades.  We got our equipment up and rolling from the get go to capture the beginnings of what would be an epic set.  “Cumberland Blues”?  Hot damn.  What a way to start!!  Please enjoy!!

Holy goodness and my stars!  How great was that??  They continued things smartly with “Somebody’s Gonna Pay”, Ronnie McCoury at the mic for lead vocals.  Just love that man’s voice…so crystal clear and so perfect for bluegrass.  There was some nice interplay between Jason Carter on fiddle and Rob McCoury on banjo that made for a special moment in the song.  Never would want to get on Ronnie’s bad side, though, like the person in this song.  Much rather be a friend to the McCourys, right?  Right.  Then it was time for Jason’s time at the mic, set up to croon one for us in the form of “Southbound”.  What a rich voice he has.  Always love getting a Carter solo.  This time the interplay occurred between the McCoury brothers, mando and banjo, respectively.  Quick-paced and fun, to be sure.  Love watching those two play alongside one another.  Cody Kilby stepped out and threw down a pretty monstrous guitar solo a couple minutes in, as well.  That fellow is a pure guitar machine, no doubt about it.  Nothing but mad respect.  Alan Bartram took lead vocals on the next, the slightly sadder “Hardest Heart”, which featured some gorgeous fiddle work from Jason alongside Robbie’s fantastic banjo.  Ronnie made his presence felt as well through some superb mandolin following.  And then there’s Cody once again to just dominate the fretboard and make it sing so sweetly.  Excellent ensemble sound in this song…really sounded just fantastic.  And this was my first time hearing it as well.  Hope it won’t be my last.   A little later down the set it was time for some amazing vocal harmonies as the band covered Passenger’s “Let Her Go” — I mean these guys polished the heck out of their parts for this song.  And it really showed.  Ronnie was on the lead for it and when joined by his fellows, magic ensued.  Truly.  What an addition to the setlist for the evening!  This was followed by Robbie leading things off on banjo for the familiar and fabulous “Midnight Flyer”, Jason Carter taking lead vocals once again.  This one steamed along steadily just like a locomotive of bluegrass chugging into the night.  That sound of Rob’s banjo just sticks out in my mind…ever-present in the song and excellent.  Grooving merrily along with The Travelin’ McCourys!!  What more could you ask for?  More train songs?  Why the heck not?  Alan took to the mic once more for the lead on “I Think I’ll Stay Awhile”, a song about the siren-call of the train tracks and where they might lead…possibly to anywhere.  Ronnie McCoury colored things in with some lovely mando while his brother followed suit on banjo.  Bartram delivered some really fine singing throughout this one as well, the man being possessed of a fantastic voice like his compatriots.  A bit further on, Ronnie’s son, Adam McCoury, joined the band for some fun.  And for the Dead’s “Loser”, too.  Talk about fun!!  Adam was one lucky young man, to be sure.  Of course, he definitely had some chops to show off that evening as his father crooned along to us of that familiar sad tale of unluckiness and woe.  The younger McCoury delivered up one groovy and heartfelt solo on guitar before all was said and done.  Bravo to him!!  Definitely a crowd pleaser, this song.  But that should come as no surprise.  The Grateful Dead + The Travelin’ McCourys + DelFest = Inexplicable incredibleness.  Conner Broome came out on stage next to join in on keys alongside Adam and the gents for a spot-on cover of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”.  From the first familiar strains of the song, the crowd was instantly on board for this oldie, but greatie.  “He’s got the action, he’s go the motion.  Oooooh yeah, the boy can play!”  And that was certainly the case when it came to the youngest fellas on the stage, Conner and Adam.  Those boys can play, lemme tell you!  Such talent and skill already well-honed at such a young age — I think we can expect great things from both gents in the future.  John Hartford was next on the menu in the form of Jason Carter singing lead vocals on “Back in the Goodle Days”, a favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  Some supremely awesome fiddle came down from Carter on this song when he wasn’t on the lyrics, as well.  Talk about your “goodle days”, right?  Then they invited Del out for a couple of songs for which we were all very grateful.  How couldn’t we be?  The first number they doled out from the stage was “You've Got The Look Of A Perfect Diamond" with Del on lead vocals.  This one was a rollicking good musical time juxtaposed to the lyrics regarding a particularly cold and distant lady.  Bluegrass so often does that, setting text to music that seem so opposite of one another…but it always seems to work out so very well.  Just like with “Perfect Diamond”.  Mighty fine banjo stylings from Rob on this one, too.  That man truly is the “five string flamethrower”.  Ronnie took over the mic from his father for the following number, “Homegrown Tomatoes”, borrowing a little assistance from a piece of paper for the lyrics.  I’ve done that many, many times myself.  The jumbotrons were alight with the lyrics for all to sing along to, and why not?  Who doesn’t love singing along with Del and The Travelin’ McCourys??  So sing we did, loudly and proudly and we had a ball.  Ahhhhh, DelFest.  You know how to get me.  Every time.  They finished their set off by inviting Mark O’Connor out to join in on fiddle for their traditional farewell song, “Travelin’”.  This song is pure energy in bluegrass form.  All cylinders firing and with the nitrous boost of O’Connor in the mix?  Electric!!  Jason and Mark had a really marvelous back-and-forth at one point, fiddles flying in all directions.  It was magnificent.  Quite a way to end the show.  But they weren’t done yet.  How about Del and Sierra Hull coming out to nail down the encore with them?  How’s about that, indeed?!?  A song about a fiddle player was up for us here at the last, according to Carter.  Another Hartford piece, and thankfully because Hartford pieces rock, “Vamp in the Middle” proved the perfect choice for a follow-on song to a set such as that.  Sierra shone like the gemstone she is throughout, her instrument singing brightly.  Dagnabit!!  What a show!!  Such superbly incredible music from start to finish.  So many great guests with so much to add.  Just phenomenal.  A huge thanks to The Travelin’ McCourys and all their folk for such a marvelous DelFest set!  Made me all the more eager for late night Sunday.  But, we’ll have to wait for that for a bit…  

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys

Late Night - Cabinet - Greensky Bluegrass

    Late Night once again.  And the bill this time?  Cabinet and Greensky.  Holy dynamic duo, Batman!!  This show had been sold out for months in anticipation of a double-barreled display of bluegrass, newgrass, and jamgrass all rolled into one night of fun and frivolity.  And the place was packed, let me tell you.  If people could get into this show, they did get into this show.  And the musical reward for entry?  Pure gold.  Cabinet opened the whole shebang playing hits and jams left and right, like starting off with “Eleanor” which they took directly into “Mysterio”.  Both songs filled with lots of up energy, they proved their own double-barrel opener for the double-barrel late night.  Electrified and electric, Cabinet came roaring out the gate bringing smiles, joy, and fun to one and all assembled under that metal roof.  Todd Kopec spanked that fiddle of his something fierce throughout, laying down some serious notes.  Pappy Biondo also delivered some pretty incredible notes of his own on banjo.  Not to mention all the shredding on electric guitar by Mickey Coviello.  Again, one more band that is filled with beastly players of the highest order.  Machines.  Demi-gods.  Call them what you will, those cats can play!  “Mysterio”, driven forward by the drums of Josh Karis and Jami Novak, is a thrill ride through minor keys and lots of tasty percussion.  Spacey and jammy in all the right ways, an apropos addition for a late night setlist.  Later in their set we were treated to Pappy at the vocals for “Diamond Joe”.  Featuring J.P. Biondo on the mandolin, this song really gets moving as the tale is spun of Diamond Joe and his exploits.  More supremely good guitar work from Coviello here as well.  There was a huge ending jam featuring pretty much everyone on everything before all was said and done throwing the crowd into a veritable frenzy.  It was pretty freakin’ sweet to say the least.  Next up was a super incredible gift of music:  Clapton’s “Cocaine” featuring Cris Jacobs guesting in for a giant 9:18 minutes!!  How lucky were we??  Seriously, we were all pretty much completely beside ourselves. “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…”  And this music didn’t lie, either…it was so very, very good.  The best.  And Cris Jacobs?  Really?  So very, very good.  A big thanks to the band and to Cris for this one!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the exquisite jamming that occurred throughout this song, too.  The music was just stupendous.  ‘Nuff said.  They finished their set with a big ol’ fat “Heavy Rain”, a foots-stomper and singalong if there ever was one.  Pappy crooned out his cautionary tale to a crowd of super happy folk as the band slammed along behind him.  Big vocals coming out of this one, awesome harmonies abounding.  Certainly a great way to simmer things down from such a hot, hot show.  Mad ups to Cabinet for bringing the heat to late night and working us all up for some Greensky Bluegrass to follow!  

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

    GSBG!!  Let’s do this!  Riding high on all that incredible Cabinet energy, we were all ready for our Greensky and more.  And just how did they start their show??  Oh, merely a little Talking Heads cover for us… “Road to Nowhere” with Paul Hoffman at the main vocals.  And so we were instantly immersed in Greensky’s musical world and overjoyed for it.  What a stellar version of this song, all grassed up in all the ways you want.  Anders Beck’s ever-present dobro alongside Dave Bruzza’s guitar and Hoffman’s mando…that quintessential sound we associate with GSBG.  All showcased in this one in perfect fashion.  OK.  I was game.  So far, so amazing.  A meaty “Kerosene” followed full of trippy, spaced-out intros and that gunshot of energy as the song takes hold.  Bruzza was in fine form on the vocals and nailed down his line effortlessly.  Beck delivered his usual schooling on the dobro as the song hurtled along at full speed.  The breakdown at the ending was just a monster of a thing.  So dirty nasty good in all the right ways.  The ensuing adoring cheers from the audience were deafening.  Next in the set was “Old Barns” which the band dedicated to Rachel Ciboro. I love this song and I love the way Paul sings it.  Seriously, this one always pulls at the heartstrings.  The hallmark of a truly well-written song.  Later on down the line, the band had a little fun with a “Cocaine” tease, led by Hoffman on mandolin.  Instead, however, Paul sang “Cabinet” instead of “cocaine”.  Too funny.  What a prankster!!  This was followed by a huge “Don’t Lie” to the tune of 16:32, with a crazy good intro jam.  Impressive.  Can’t imagine owning the bass for that long they way that Mike Devol does.  And did.  Talk about the true foundation of the band…his notes are there, always supporting.  Always.  Love his style, too.  Hard not to love the members of this band for all their musical skills and talents.  Mike Bont had a bit of fire in him as well all evening long, taking his banjo to task and producing excellence.  Another brutally good ending jam developed in “Don’t Lie” taking the energy levels to such degrees as to threaten to tear down the Music Hall.  Dobro in your face…so good!!  Bass, badass…so good!!  Banjo all around you…so good!!  Mando madness to behold…so good!!  Guitar goodness…so good!!  And that’s the theme of the Greensky set that late night…so good!!  Still later on in the show we got the sweet deal of “Don’t Lie” directly into “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, a favorite cover amongst the GSBG fan masses.  And it should be as well.  “Don’t Lie” they took at a quick clip, instruments shining and singing out at the fast tempo.  The kings of the whizzbang wild energy wielding ending jam, they went all in for “Light Up” throwing in “Dancing on the Ceiling” teases and more.  They ramped this one up I tell you!  One of those moments where it’s almost too much music to take in.  But there was so much more music left!  In the form of the main event, in my opinion, the epic (yes, epic) “Worried About the Weather > China Cat Sunflower > Big Shot” that served as the anchor for the show.  Almost 20 minutes of straight bluegrass awesomeness.  Wowsers.  And the Dead.  And Billy Joel.  What??  That’s right.  Bruzza was on lead vocals for “Worried” which sounded just about album perfect, each member completely destroying their parts.  Just as we were grooving along to the song and getting into some jams, they were off into “China Cat Sunflower” to the delight of all.  Paul sounded pretty durn amazing on the lead vocals channeling all his inner Dead that he could muster and more.  What a performance.  Anyways, I just love this song…one of my faves from the Dead’s catalogue.  As such, I was certainly happy to hear it in the mix that night.  Lovely mandolin from Hoffman as well as lovely dobro from Beck.  Perfectly melded parts into the fabric of the song.  Masterful and a joy to hear.  And then, after some more wonderful jamming, it was off into Billy Joel’s musical landscape with “Big Shot”, Hoffman on lead vocals.  Who knew this would be such a big, fat ending to a marvelous show such as this?  Bravi fellas, quite so!  They closed things down with “Dustbowl Overtures” and Paul singing “Easy Like Sunday Morning” teases during the intro.  And close things down they did, too.  Holy goodness…so amazing right to the very end.  A huge round of applause and thanks to the lads in the band for such an incredible time.  Made for the best late night yet (and there was still one more to go!).  What a long and lovely night of music!  My soul was so sated, almost to overflow.  And there was still Sunday Funday to go.  Wow…could I make it?  You has best believe it!!

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

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Sunday is on its way, my friends!!  Almost there!!

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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Saturday/Sunday

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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Saturday/Sunday

10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday

The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience - Sam Bush Band

    Late night Friday was a sea of pickin’ parties, libations, and great conversations.  Those wee hours of the morning really breakdown all the remaining barriers between musicians and festival goers to create something truly unique and special.  And tiring after a couple of nights in a row…sleep is always at a premium at Big Sky Big Grass.  But, hey, we’ve plenty of time to sleep in our graves, right?  After catching a few important hours of sleep and pulling ourselves together for another evening of music, it was time for Saturday to get going in full swing.  And, trust me, with the likes of David Grisman and Sam Bush in the mix, it promised to be quite an evening.      

    Sadly, I have to report that there were some severe sound issues for David Grisman’s set.  In the fact that the audience couldn’t really hear much of anything.  I am not sure if there were mic issues or soundboard issues, however, the point remains that if I cannot hear the music, I cannot report on it.  What we did hear of favorites like “Walkin’ the Dog” sounded potentially wonderful.  However, the technical gods were against us that night, it seemed.  A real tragedy for such a bluegrass legend as Grisman.

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience

    Luckily the techs fixed the sound for the next act, the Sam Bush Band.  And thank goodness for that!  Sammy and crew came tearing out of the gate with a fiddle tune care of Mr. Bush.  This one turned dirty good by tune’s end, nice and gritty with a driving bass line from Todd Parks.  Really quite a baller way to get things all riled up in the Missouri Ballroom that night.  “This Heart of Mine” followed with Sam back on mandolin and featuring some really tight vocal harmonies and some truly fine guitar work from Stephen Mougin.  This, in turn, led to an excellent “One More Love Song” with Sam getting tender in the lyrics all the while absolutely jamming out on mandolin.  “I wanna sing you one more love song…why leave it this way?”  Why leave it that way, indeed, right Sammy?  Really liked that one.  The next one in line that night was the instrumental “By Stealth” which was a riveting run through some serious hard drivin’ fast pickin’ with each musician stepping up to show their skills.  Simply sizzling solo from Scott Vestal on banjo — definitely of note.  This kind of tune is precisely the perfect space to observe some intense musicianship in action.  And the Sam Bush Band did not disappoint on this front whatsoever.   This led to the foot-stomping good time that is “East Virginia Blues” with Sam, of course, on the vocals and mando.  Incredible guitar stylings from Stephen Mougin in this one — they really kept the drive of the song going full force.  Then Sam and company took us for a ride on “The Bluegrass Train”.  Nothing like a good train song, right?  And nothing like hopping on the train that is the Sam Bush Band for one helluva musical ride.  And what a ride it was, too!!  Nasty, nasty excellent mando solo from Sam here, just amazing.  Thanks for that one, Sammy, fellas!  Later on in the set came the touching and soulful “Circles Around Me” (“High in Telluride…”) and later still came a little Jerry Lee Lewis with some “Great Balls of Fire”.  And what fire there was, let me tell you!!  Grassing up a version of this one was definitely the right move — it was fast, fun, and full of up energy for everyone.  Especially that incredibly hot banjo solo from Scott.  Damn can that man play!  So quick!!   Another great cover came after in the form of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” which instantly had the crowd tuned in and singing along.  A lengthy and lovely “Same Ol’ River” clocking in at 16:01 followed — talk about something you can really sink your musical teeth into!  What a journey!   Later on in the show, they closed with another fiddle tune, care of Sam.  Rollicking and rolling this one was a great way to end things for the evening.  But wait, they weren’t done yet!  There was a multi-song encore set on its was with lots of special guests!  The cast of characters you ask?  In addition to Sam and band we have Cody Kilby (The Travelin’ McCourys), David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury (The Travelin’ McCourys), Bela Fleck, amongst a few others gathered for some encore fun.  The first song up was “Little Girl of Tennessee” with Sam up on the vocals.  So much star power on one stage — how couldn’t it sound pretty damn amazing?  Which it did, of course.  Such great music.  And just stunning, stunning playing from everyone.  After two (yes two) more numbers it was time for the really big finish with “Bluegrass Breakdown”, a heart-palpitatingly quick race through some severely impressive fast pickin’.  One and all these gents threw down in superbly fine fashion bringing the main stage of the Missouri to a whiz-bang of a close for the night.  So very many thanks to Sam, his band, and their guests on stage that evening.  What a ride, what a rush!  Certainly only whetted the appetite for more bluegrass joy to follow on Sunday!!

Sam Bush Band & Friends

Sam Bush Band & Friends

Sunday

Billy Strings - Drew Emmitt Band - Jeff Austin Band - Keller Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys

    Sunday had found us once again but were still fresh and frosty and ready for a monster of a great time care of some premium bluegrass music.  It had been a long and luxuriant weekend as we basked in bluegrass clear up to our grinning faces.  And the best part about Sundays, my friends?  More music!!  That’s right.  More of that specific brand of awesomeness that we all thrive upon, that we yearn for.  The surprise TBD set ended up going to Mr. Billy Strings and we were all glad that it did.  Due to the Superbowl, the place was empty.  And I mean criminally empty — but, whatever.  Roll with it, right?  Private show?  You bet!  Billy started out solo crooning some songs and pickin’ tune for us.  He began with Doc Watson’s “Nashville Blues”, a perfect selection to show off the great balance between Billy’s amazing guitar playing and his lovely baritone singing.  Fantastic fast pickin’ and classic bluegrass singing.  What more could you ask for?  Continuing in that theme, we got a mighty fine “Brown’s Ferry Blues” care of Mr. Strings.  Sure didn’t seem like Billy had the blues to me, but, hey, you’ve gotta go with something on your setlist, right?  Plus he simply killed the first two songs.  Which made us eager to hear the minor and slightly morose “Wild Bill Jones” which was next on the docket.  A cautionary tale doled out in a gentle but powerful singing voice and counterpointed always by the ever-moving fingers of this young man’s magical hands as they fly over strings and fretboard.  A light and lively guitar tune medley followed comprised of “Give the Fiddler a Dram” and “Whistling Rufus” and “Ragtime Annie”, highlighting for one and all that skill plus talent plus hard work that is the musical might that is Billy Strings.  Billy credited Doc Watson for the inspiration for this medley.  Continuing with some more Watson, he next played a superb version of “Hold the Woodpile Down” which featured some blistering, blistering guitar action.  Not that we were surprised.  Just in awe as always.  Tyler Grant (The Grant Farm) came out and joined Billy for what he termed “guitarmageddon”.  Love it.  “Lost Indian”, a fiddle tune, was to be their first number.  And my goodness…two guitar greats such as these pickin’ away at the same time, on the same stage??  Forget about it!  Seriously.  It was mind-meltingly excellent all the way around.  So many incredible guest spots and collaborations at this fest!  I love it!  And then it was time for a vocal duet…sweet.  Another Doc Watson selection (am I sensing a theme?) and this time “Way Downtown”.  Super fine harmonies from the get-go — really great blend between the two gents on stage.  And the seemingly effortless intertwining of their guitar lines was just beautiful to behold.  Most certainly a great pairing here.  Would love to see more of this very act in the future.  Such good guitar work from both fellas.  So good!  A little later in the set the two of them gave us a a rousing “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar” especially given the guys singing this very song.  The thought of either of them laying down their guitars is almost anathema.  Listening back to my notes all I hear is just how much guitar is present at every point throughout these songs.  So many notes played with such skills and acumen.  It is so impressive — just makes me so very grateful that there are those of us out there who can and do play as such for all the rest of us to so thoroughly enjoy.  “My Rose of Old Kentucky” that stalwart standard and favorite came after, all of us still being treated to the joy of those double guitars.  This certainly was a Watson-heavy affair.  And I couldn’t have been happier.  Finally, as an encore, these two fine gentlemen played us an energetic and moving instrumental tune which had the growing crowd dancing and hopping to the rapid beat.  A truly lovely way to end a lovely set.  Bravo to Billy for all that he is and does!!  Bravo to Tyler for providing the perfect duo companion to share the stage with Billy!!  Bravi to them both for such exquisite music and a fabulous show!!

Billy Strings & Tyler Grant

Billy Strings & Tyler Grant

    And then it was time some Drew Emmitt Band all up in our lives.  Hells yeah.  Joining in on the fun were Sam Bush on fiddle, Tyler Grant on guitar, and Robbie McCoury on banjo.  Not a bad lineup.  Not a bad lineup whatsoever, my friends.  It appeared that we were in for a real treat.  And that treat got started off with a personal favorite John Hartford song:  “Steam Powered Aereoplane”.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard it better, to be quite honest.  Tyler Grant had a really excellent solo early on in this one…man do I just love his playing.  And what an incredible version of this song.  So happy to have gotten this one.  And as an opener, too.  The ensemble rocked out to a Leftover Salmon fave next with “Breakin’ Thru”, Drew leading the whole energetic gathering threw with his strong, distinctive voice.  And such a great ensemble sound coming from the stage already.  Just a testament to the utter professionalism and intensive skills of these musicians.  Not to mention the beast of an ending breakdown, Sam Bush tearing his fiddle bow apart as we all howled our appreciation and enjoyment from below the stage.  Such an electric finish!   However, it would seem I experienced some technical difficulties with my voice recorder (and best concert friend) for a few songs of Drew’s set.  Corrupted data, garbled playback, etc.  So, my apologies to you in that I cannot report on much of this show.  However, we trudge on, right?  Sorry Drew!  Sorry Drew band!  “Crossroads” by Cream provided the encore selection for the evening which saw Drew on electric guitar.  Sam Bush had an important fiddle solo smack in the middle of this one.  And it all sounded of pure excellence.  Rob McCoury flexed his banjo chops something fierce in this one as well.  A really awesome and fun set from the Drew Emmitt Band and Friends.  A perfect Sunday Funday band if I’ve ever seen one.  Thanks, gentlemen!!

Drew Emmitt Band & Friends

Drew Emmitt Band & Friends

    Jeff.  Austin.  Band.  Hells yeah.  Time for some gritty bluegrass attitude, shaken, not stirred.  A long and building instrumental opening led us to “Reuben’s Train” proper and, in no time, we were all steaming along on this mad locomotive with Jeff Austin at the wheel headed towards some seriously bonkers good music.  Hurling along with JAB down the electrified track that is one of their sets is always a rocking good time.  Seriously rocking.  And they kept right on rocking with a fast picker’s delight, “Time Ain’t Time”.  Such quick and rapid intertwining of instrument lines!  Gorgeous.  Amazing mando solo from Jeff in this one — that man plays with so much conviction.  Damn!  This was followed by an incredible solo from Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo.  A riveting ride from start to finish!  We were off to such a great start!  A mellow lead in from Jeff on mandolin to the next song provided a nice groove for us all to fall into.  “15 Steps” slowly crept up and hit us all full in the face with just that kind of song and feeling we’ve all come to expect from Jeff over the years.  Ross Martin (guitar) and Eric Thorin (bass) chose to get down and funky in the middle of this one, too.  Most certainly a groovy, groovy song.  Hard drivin’?  Fast pickin’?  You want those things huh?  Well, the “Red Haired Boy” that they gave us next was all of that and so much more.  They dedicated it to Billy Strings, too.  Isn’t that lovely of them?  Damn was this a fast one.  Blisteringly quick.  And played so well by all on stage.  Tight.  Nothing like getting an old classic like this from the Jeff Austin Band.  Cavanaugh got down and dirty in this one on banjo, really smoking that melody line.  This was answered by Ross Martin on guitar who funked things up a bit himself.  All in all, another thrilling ride on the JAB Express.  Next up on the setlist was “My Sisters and Brothers” a Charles Johnson song made famous by the Jerry Garcia Band.  Fant-freakin-tastic!  And then it was a lengthy and trippy “Ragdoll” which dominated the set.  Some serious exploratory moments wrapped in there.  It’s just good to see they’re still doing this song.  Love this one…but who doesn’t, right?  After that big entree of bluegrass dinner, dessert came in the form of a rollicking “Sideshow Blues”.  Cruising at top speed right up until end of their set, JAB pulled out all the stops that evening, including on “Sideshow”.  They came, they saw, they destroyed it.  JAB.  Incredible set, fellas…so many thanks for the music!  Very much looking forward to my next dance with the Jeff Austin Band.

Jeff Austin Band

Jeff Austin Band

    I cannot tell you just how excited I was to finally be seeing Keller Williams and the Travelin’ McCourys together on the same stage.  I’d been waiting quite awhile for that magic to strike me and strike me it did in full force that night.  All the boys assembled on stage surely meant some serious business from the very get go.  “I Am Elvis” is how they chose to ramp things up.  Talk about an album-quality show!!  Each song was so tight and so polished, if you closed your eyes it was hard to tell live from Memorex, so to speak (think I just dated myself there a bit haha).  “It’s all in my mind…I live inside my imagination.”  Well, it was certainly not all in my mind Saturday night at Big Sky Big Grass.  It was on the stage and it was bold, brazen, beautiful, and badass.  They took “Elvis” directly into a little Donna Summer with “Hot Stuff” and why not?  It’s not as if this group of stringslingers didn’t have the chops for this one.  Bouncing, lovely energy just cascading off the stage, Jason Carter’s fiddle lighting up the night like a beacon of pure sound, this one pulled the crowd into a merry den of musical mayhem and set us up right for the remainder of the set.  Up next was “Broken Convertible” with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics sung by none other than Keller himself.  Talk about another album-perfect one!  It really is a shame that Keller and the McCourys don’t tour more often together — this is one incredible act to see, my friends!  And with Keller changing the lyrics to reference a Sam Bush presidential bid/win, who could be disappointed?  Modest Mouse’s “Float On” came next in line for us — quite the surprise, but an excellent cover.  And Ronnie McCoury’s mandolin solo was something special to be sure.  Certainly another crowd pleaser for this tiny but voracious audience especially with the Dexys Midnight Runners “Come On Eileen” teaser thrown in for good measure.  After that, Ronnie was up to the mic to croon the vocals on “The Graveyard Shift” and he just nailed it to the wall.  Of course.  As if there could be any doubts as to that.  Simply splendid vocal harmonies in “Graveyard” to boot…always so nice to listen to.  And let us not forget Rob McCoury’s monster solo on banjo or Cody Kilby’s unequalled guitar skills throughout the song.  A stroll with the Grateful Dead followed in the form of a mellow and masterful “Candyman”.  Some Grateful Grass with the McCourys, eh Keller?  Maybe that’s the next lineup?  Maybe?  Would that it could be so.  How marvelous would that be?  An entire show of Dead songs thrown down by Keller and the McCourys??  Magnificence!  “Something Else” came on the heels of “Candyman” and was followed by Mike Doughty’s “American Car” — both of which sounded stupendous.  As you might expect.  Keller was in great voice all night, too…made for a near perfect-sounding concert.  It was Alan Bartram’s turn up at the microphone next for “Messed Up Just Right” one of my very favorite songs from the Pick album.  And Alan has such an awesome voice, too!  He really knows how to burn this song down.  Not your typical love song, but nonetheless incredible.  Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” was our next offering that evening…yes, you read that correctly.  Keller busted out some quality lyrics as the band really embraced this one, Jason Carter’s fiddle line capturing the melodic movement of the original.  And Rob’s driving banjo line was ever-present providing a forward motion to the whole song, grassing it up all the more.  They took this directly into a bluegrass version of Keller’s “Tweeker” which was something else to be sure.  One helluva great treatment of this song.  A whistled Andy Griffith theme song tease helped to keep us all on our toes through this string band whirlwind combined with Keller’s unique dance music.  Ronnie McCoury sure took the opportunity to slay on mando in the middle of “Tweeker” — righteous to a ’T’.  Different that’s for sure.  And fun as all hell.  A little later in the set we got the poignant and feelings-provoking “Price Tag”.  Really love this song and love the way they just own it even though it’s a cover.  Hard to believe that when faced with the gorgeous wall of musical sound that hits you like a velvet hammer.  “…we don’t need your money.  Just wanna make the world dance, forget about your price tag.”  There’s quite a lot of wisdom in those words, my friends.  Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” followed and then a rousing “Mullet Cut” came after.  What a setlist!  So much good music!  And they weren’t done yet!  And how about a little Foster the People?  Just when you thought this set couldn’t get any broader for bluegrass, a little “Pumped Up Kicks” comes along and smacks you around in all the right ways.  And Rob’s banjo solo?  Forget about it!  Just nasty!!  Not to mention his brother’s own brand of nasty on the mandolin to follow.  Talented family…no doubts there.  Sam Bush, Drew Emmitt, and Billy Strings joined the stage for the encore madness and madness it was.  The best kind.  Billy stepped up to the mic to belt out the lyrics to “Freeborn Man” for us as well all danced the night away, never stopping, never wanting to miss a beat, a note, a word…anything!  And how about that phenomenal Billy Strings guitar solo, too?  Hotness of the best kind.  Back to the Dead for a hot minute, the next encore selection was “Men Smart, Women Smarter” which featured a sizzling Sam Bush solo on mandolin.  Always a fun song, no?  Then came the final song of the evening:  a riveting and quick run through some bluegrass goodness.  This one was sung by Sam Bush and, sadly, I didn’t manage to catch the title for you.  Just know this:  it was teeming with incredible musicianship from every gent on stage, just oozing musical awesomeness at every turn.  And one amazing way to close things down on the main stage in the Missouri for the 2016 Big Sky Big Grass.  So very many thanks to Keller and the McCourys for such a superb night of music!!

Keller Williams & The Travelin' McCourys

Keller Williams & The Travelin' McCourys

    And then, sadly, it was all over.  The 10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass had concluded and done so in great style.  We had been welcomed over and over all weekend until we felt a part of the Big Sky family and we so grateful for the experience.  If you’re looking for a unique festival that boasts amazing music and some really cool other aspects then look no further.  Consider a jaunt up to Big Sky…make the trek.  Talk about bragging rights, huh?  Thanks for reading, everyone!!  Hope you enjoyed it!!

Late Night Pickin' Party

Late Night Pickin' Party

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