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The Infamous Stringdusters

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Sunday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Sunday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

Elephant Revival - Railroad Earth - The Infamous Stringdusters

    If Saturday had been about snow and cold and wind, then Sunday Funday proved itself more about sun and warm and shine.  Ah, Colorado…where, if you don’t trust the weather, then don’t come to WinterWonderGrass unprepared.  People were resplendent in their funwear, ready for a Sunday full of amazing music, just like the two days previous.  I love my people, it must be said.  Our community is so strong and so passionate and so compassionate…I’ve really come to rely upon the foundation of this core grass fan base over the years.  And why shouldn’t I?  After incredible experiences such as WWG amongst so many other amazing festivals throughout the year, it has become apparent just how special this whole situation really is.  And I am most certainly grateful for it.  You bet your boots.  Speaking of boots, let’s get back to those snow boots in Steamboat for a little Elephant Revival time!  They opened things up with Daniel Rodriguez on the lead vocals for “Home in Your Heart” with light and lovely backing vocals from Bonnie Paine.  A wonderful way to start things off, especially with the polished banjo stylings of Charlie Rose there to augment the floating and delighting vocal melody.  Dango Rose’s baller bass playing, as always, providing the backbone of each piece, this one being no exception, was laying down a textural foundation upon which the entire rest of the ensemble was building.  “Light as a feather and you’re homeward bound…”  There is no doubting the beauty of Elephant Revival’s poetry through song.  You’d be hard pressed to find a fan that didn’t agree — they write some seriously moving pieces, it’s true.  The vocal ensemble of Daniel, Bonnie, Charlie, and Darren Garvey back on his drums was gorgeous in the frigid air…yet another strong hallmark of this band’s appeal and abilities.  The song ended to uproarious applause and cheers to which Bonnie replied into the mic, “We love you guys.”  This only elicited at loud, raucous, and awesome “We love you more!” from the crowd.  You cannot create moments like that, you just have to be there in them.  And what a moment we were all sharing!  Daniel led things off for the next piece on guitar, joined quickly by Bonnie on washboard and the remainder of the band moving quickly into their signature sound.  How great a sound it is, too, my friends.  So unique.  “Remembering a Beginning” is a Bonnie lead on vocals and is a journey through music and mystery.  Bridget Law’s solo on fiddle a few minutes into things was haunting and a perfect counterpoint to Bonnie’s mesmerizing vocals.  Suffice it to say, this band is a well-balanced, finely tuned magical musical machine.  They way they all play so well together is really a treat to behold.  And we cannot forget Charlie’s monster of a banjo breakdown, can we?  No, we really cannot.  So far this show was delivering on so many lovely levels.  But, then again, that is what we all have come to rightly expect from a band that makes such lovely music.  Third up out of the gate for us was a lively fiddle tune from the amazing Bridget Law.  Nothing like watching someone with chops such as hers evoke the most marvelous strains from her chosen instrument.  It was more like seeing her dancing with the fiddle as the rest of the band played for their benefit.  Some really fun stuff was coming from the Garvey at the rear of the stage percussion-wise to bolster the highly enjoyable dancing rhythms of the tune itself, Bonnie’s washboard zipping along to the beat in a bright and bold fashion.  Shame I don’t know that name of this one…I’ll certainly be listening for it in the future.  Man, what a set so far and we were just three songs in!!  A little further along we were able to capture some video to give you a feel of the sights and sounds of WWG care of Elephant Revival.  Please enjoy “Spinning”, my friends.  I know I sure did!! 

Kinda makes you want to go to Steamboat in 2018, huh?  I know the feeling.  Trust me.  It gets in your blood…he said after having gone three times.  Guess some things can’t be helped.  Not that I’d want to.  But, back to the music!  Their penultimate song of the evening was “Drop”, with it’s percussion-heavy intro and intense lyrics.  Dancing in and out of mellow, this is a masterful piece of music with some extremely gorgeous parts.  One such part is Law’s expert fiddle work throughout, both in ensemble and solo.  Bonnie’s oh-so unique and diaphanous voice, perfectly suited to the vocals of this one, rang out into the still of the air, coming to rest lightly and sweetly on our ears and hearts.  And there was another incredible Charlie Rose solo on banjo.  Wow.  Just wow.  After a supremely wonderful set, things heated up even further at the end as many, many friends joined ER on stage for a their final number.  Members of Fruition, Gipsy Moon, and even festival organizer and visionary Scott Stoughton crowded around the various mics on stage to join Elephant for a big, bad WWG version of “Grace of a Woman”.  Daniel Rodriguez led things off on vocals quickly supported by the many voices on stage in a big chorus of amazing harmony.  The chorus was a brazen and ecstatic celebration of voices, countless united in cause, both on stage and off.  What a party!  This one was a seriously good time, there can be no doubts.  I mean, how much fun were all the musicians having?  Those smiles were as real as can be.  Truth.  Mimi Naja of Fruition unleashed a beast of a mando solo…so good!  And then there’s Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth out of nowhere on sax just killing things.  Amazing.  And then, an a cappella ending?  Really?  So freakin’ good!  What a fabulous show it had been.  What a way to Sunday, no doubt!  So many thanks to Elephant Revival for a simply delightful time at WWG CO 2017!!  Let’s do it all over again next year!!

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Authors’ Note

    My apologies for not providing further reviews of Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters.  Due to a personal emergency on Sunday of WinterWonderGrass, I was not able to cover these events.  All’s well that ended well, so no worries, just that it interrupted my journalistic goals for the day.  I have included some RRE images for you as well as a video of the final song of the fest that night at ISD’s late night show.  Please enjoy, friends!!  Again, my apologies!!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Saturday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Saturday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Fruition - Sam Bush Band - The Infamous Stringdusters

    WinterWonderGrass, indeed!  What a wintry day was Saturday this year, friends…cold and snowy and windy.  The trifecta.  Everyone was donning multi-layer outfits to combat the elements successfully enough so that they could soak in some hot, hot grass music on the main stage.  Steamboat looked a mysterious blur of white and muted sunlight all around us as the mountains wavered in and out of view.  However, if the sheer numbers of people present were any indication, then I’d say the indomitable human spirit was the winner that day as we all overcame the cold and snow in favor of some seriously amazing music awaiting us.  Like Portland, Oregon’s own Fruition, for example.  Their last performance of a six week tour, this sizzling hot ensemble was certainly ready to bring it to Colorado and then some.  Kicking things off just right, the band opened with “Somehow, Someway, Someday”, Mr. Jay Cobb Anderson at the mic for lead vocals.  Of course, like with so many favorites from Fruition, this vocal solo quickly turned into a multi-voice harmony adding Mimi Naja and Kellen Asebroek to the mix.  Tyler Thompson established an early prominence on drums that would continue throughout the set, his metronomic beats keeping the band moving ever forward as the winter winds whipped into their faces, freezing fingers and voices alike.  Jay’s bright and boisterous guitar solo around three minutes in most assuredly helped to keep the crowd a bit warmer in front of the stage.  And, just like that, Fruition were off to an incredible start ready to warm our hearts with more of their phenomenal music.  A little ways down the line they gave us a fantastic WWG version of the title track of their latest album, Labor of Love.  Speaking of albums…this number sounded pretty darn album perfect, my friends.  Seriously, the harmonies were so tight, the ensemble sound so polished.  What a rendition of this delightful song about friendship and relationship and life.  Mimi was all over that mandolin of hers like a magical madwoman of multiple notes, the unmistakable tone shining out into the cold air like a beacon of love itself.  Jeff Leonard’s bass was nothing short of the perfect foundation throughout “Labor of Love”, each note shoring up the texture around it in an expert and heartfelt manner.  And, if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know I am a sucker for great musical texture.  And what provides the root for so much of that?  Great bass work.  Cheers to Jeff for the very same!  Later still, Johnny Bones of The California Honeydrops joined the band for a couple of numbers, the first of which was “I Should Be (On Top of the World)”, a mellow, soulful number sung by Mimi.  Luckily for you, my friends, we captured that very song on video amidst the driving snow.  Just for you, friends!!  Please enjoy!! 

What a crazy day for some music, no?  All told, it is a super fun way to hear some great string band grooves…awakens the senses.  Just after “I Should Be” they went into one of my favorite Fruition songs of all times:  “There She Was”.  Funky, fresh, fun, fabulous, this song never fails to excite and delight.  Seriously groovy and filled with fantastic musical attitude, “There She Was” is a journey through funk and freaky music fantasy that takes you on a ride of pure enjoyment.  Kellen was up to the mic for the vocal lead and he crooned the lyrics in a mesmerizing sort of way as the rest of the band provided a rich backdrop of vocal harmonies, varying tempos, guitar solos, running bass lines, a chorus of drum energies, and lots and lots of rock and roll marvel.  Johnny Bones was a beast on his horn, too, really adding a nice flourish to this song and throwing down one mean, mean solo — certainly grateful to have him on board.  And the breakdown surrounding that horn solo?  Exquisite.  How can’t you just madly adore this band?  So many thanks to them and to Johnny for an incredible WWG “There She Was”!!  Bravi!!  Wow.  Whew!  The very next song in line that day was a cover that instantly whipped the crowd into an appreciative frenzy.  And what a great cover for this band, too.  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” featured Kellen and Mimi kicking complete and total ass on the vocals as the band put together a monster version of this one behind them on their chosen instruments.  Short and sweet, this one was a nice surprise and apropos given the mountains surrounding us on all sides.  I love it when things line up like that.  Right?  Quite the crowd pleaser, to be sure.   A bit further on, we were presented with the lovely and soul-gripping “The Meaning”, a song filled with emotion and mellow intensity.  Kellen took the lead on the vocals for this one as well, singing sweetly out to the snow-covered audience huddled in their winter coats and hats and gloves.  “I was born to love you, I will die and go back to stardust…”  What poetry, no?  And this song is just chock full of the same.  Definitely a favorite of this writer.  Some really incredible vocal harmonies here as well…something this band has down pat.  And the breakdown about three minutes in?  Yeah, it was pretty super duper, I can tell you that.  These guys most assuredly know how to jam with one another and do it very well.  From Mimi killing it on mando to the two gents on guitar and all around the ensemble, it sounded just superb.  Finally, they closed things down at the end of their set with “The Way That I Do”, Jay Cobb Anderson back to the mic for lead vocals.  What a voice on that man!  My goodness!  Wouldn’t it be cool to have him sing you to sleep for a week?  I smell an auction somewhere in there!  Ha!  Jay, you know I think you are amazing, good sir!  What a percussion breakdown from T. Thom as well.  So much rhythm all in one place.  Fun times.  Oh yes, such fun times.  What a fitting way to finish up this fiery hot set from Fruition!  It’s no secret these guys are pretty damn stellar, however, after a show like that, there could be no doubt whatsoever.  So many thanks on behalf of Colorado and WWG for granting us such a marvelous set!  Phenomenal, through and through.  Cheers to the lass and lads of Fruition!

Fruition

Fruition

    Sam.  Bush.  Band.  Need I really say anymore?  I mean, as you well know, I could leave it right at that.  But am I going to?  You know me better than that!  Saturday was still aswirl with bright white flakes whipping to and fro as the weather kept the spirit of this festival alive and searing hot in the spirits of those gathered for some great and gargantuan grass grooves.  And, believe-you-me, Sammy and his band did not disappoint.  They started things off with a nice little, building intro into Sam leading things forward on his magic mandolin, the band churning stronger and stronger in support as the song took shape settling into the familiar chords of “Play By Your Own Rules” to the utter delight of the crowd.  Uncle Sam lit up the microphone with the vocals as we all sang along under the snowy skies.  Scotty Vestal sounded crisp and polished on his banjo as always, nailing down note after perfect note either soloing or in support of Sam’s mando.  Then you’ve got Stephen Mougin on guitar and vocal harmonies…just the kind of man for such a job as well.  That gent can play, my friends!  And sing.  And make the best faces in photos by Will Rawls.  Seriously.  He is an all around talent.  And one cannot fail to mention Todd Parks on bass, the cornerstone of every good Sam Bush Band number.  Foundational and expert in every way, Todd’s proven himself the consummate member of the band.  Of course, such exquisite bass stylings go hand-in-hand with the drumming of Chris Powers.  Driving force and rhythms, time and again.  And what a complete ensemble sound!  Love this band!  Off to a very strong start, Sam and the fellas were not going to sit on their laurels.  To the contrary.  They followed “Play By Your Own Rules” up with an old SBB favorite, “Transcendental Meditation Blues”, with Sammy up to the mic to deliver the lyrics in his signature vocal style.  It’s a lot like having your favorite uncle singing you tale after incredible tale all while jamming like a gifted madman on mandolin.  Not bad, right?  Not bad at all!  Scott threw down a solid banjo solo about two minutes into things which he traded right off to Sam on mando, melody from one instrument to the next seamlessly and professionally.  Watching musicianship of this high caliber is always such a treat — certainly one of the reasons so many of us have flocked to the bluegrass genre and sub-genres.  Hot on the heels of the previous song, it was time to “ride the bluegrass train” according to Sammy.  Which is probably why they played “Riding That Bluegrass Train” immediately after he said that.  Or it was just a weird coincidence.  Either way, we all found ourselves hurtling along the musical tracks with this one, at the behest of the Sam Bush Band.  Things got nice and funky in the middle, with a jam led by Sam on mandolin, really getting nasty up in there…nasty good, that is.  Vestal answered with some well-placed, tasty notes of his own only to hand things back to Sam who, in turn, traded off to Mougin who unleashed a torrent of notes on his guitar.  What a round robin…that kept on going!  Incredible music to stupendous music to marvelous music and back again.  These guys are pretty good, you know?  Yeah, more like grass gods.  A little down the set, they played a personal favorite of mine, a chill and happy-making one called “Everything Is Possible”.  Why not get into music with a good message, right?  Nothing wrong with that.  And this groovy selection is most certainly is that in spades.  I mean, with a line like “Who’s to say something wonderful won’t happen to you?” in there, how can’t you feel a bit better just for having heard Sam and his Band lay this one down for you?  Great central jam in this song, too.  Just some seriously good music going on.  Lucky for WinterWonderGrass, right?  A little further down the set came a tune from the Band’s Storyman album which was co-written by Sam and Scott.  This sizzling hot one called “Greenbrier” is a rocket ship ride into the outer reaches of bluegrass badassery, to say the least.  So many notes coming from the entire stage:  mandolin and banjo and guitar and bass and even those drums, all engaged in the mystery and sorcery that is incredibly awesome string band music.  What a journey to go on with this band!  Rich in texture and in melody and in energy, “Greenbrier” is an all-around bluegrass feast, with more than enough for everyone to leave sated, happy.  One of the things I love most about a tune like this is just how it showcases the musical acumen and skill of these heroes of ours, these legends of the stage.  Watching Mougin’s hands move like wildfire over the strings of his guitar; seeing Vestal’s calm, collected, measured approach to killing on banjo; observing Sam in all his glory and majesty…these things are so special to witness.  “Circles Around Me” is a consummate Sam Bush song known far and wide in the grass community.  It is almost synonymous with the King of Telluride himself.  Please enjoy this video we captured this special WWG moment with the Sam Bush Band!! 

Amazing that they can play in such harsh conditions, right?  I really felt for their poor fingers on that blustery stage.  My final memory of the show was Sam and the gents covering “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers.  Not a bad parting shot, right?  And, damn, did it ever sound fantastic!  Suffice it to say, SBB brought it to the very end.  So much energy and so much superb music shared with the chilly crowd of WonderGrass.  It really is hard to say enough good things about this group.  I have seen them many times and have loved every minute of every show.  Just goes to show that worthy music moves the soul…it’s almost impossible to stop it.  Just like the music of Sam Bush and his Band.  Just like that.  Thanks so much to all the fine fellows on stage who made such a cold night so hot for us all!  Bravi to the Sam Bush Band!  

Sam Bush Band

Sam Bush Band

    Main stage, big time, big band, big expectations.  And, what did the Dusters open with?  None other than “Big River”.  Yeah, that’s right.  “Big River”.  And what a way to walk back into the venue after a quick condo run!  The air around me thick with the sounds of The Infamous Stringdusters, their mad good vocal harmonies and madcap antics on stage coupled with world-class musical skill and talent, a spring in my step as I wandered ever onward through the snow towards the stage…and then, bam.  Music.  Certainly one of my favorite bands to see live, the Dusters clearly came correct that night and ready to wow the hell out of us and reanimate our cold bodies with some searing hot grass music.  And “Big River” proved to be one perfect opener per the crowd’s very positive reaction.  Great song, played well.  Why not go nuts with excitement?  Off to a very promising beginning to be sure.  Let’s keep this thing going, boys!  Just a tad into the set, they played a song of theirs that’s been getting a lot of radio play on SiriusXM’s JamOn station and as well it should.  “Black Elk” ripped open into the night taken at a quick clip, melting the gathered ice as well as the gathered faces in the crowd as one.  Jeremy Garrett threw down some crazy tasty fiddle work only to be followed by Andy Falco on guitar with some string-ninja moves of his own.  Chris Pandolfi wasn’t to be left out either, raining down note after precious note from his banjo onto the souls of the audience huddled in the freezing dark.  Wow, what a rush!  I’d never heard that one so intense and so fast before.  Really changes the fabric of the experience…I dug it. 

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

Sam Bush joined them for the next couple of numbers, starting with “Get It While You Can” and did Sammy ever get some while he could!  Let’s see…put one of the finest mando players on the planet in to guest with one of the tightest and most polished ensembles in grass music?  OK, yes, I’ll have some of that, please!  Two helpings, if I could!  And just how much do I love Andy Hall’s dobro playing?  Seriously, that man is a wizard on his instrument, one of my favorites to be sure.  Both instrument and player.  This excellent standard from the Dusters’ catalogue augmented by Mr. Bush proved to be quite the powerhouse to great approval from the crowd.  What wasn’t to love, right?  A little further into the set they gave us a fine WWG version of “A Hard Life Makes a Great Song” which should be of some hope and inspiration to us all.  When you are feeling a bit overburdened by this life, maybe this particular song could be of assistance?  I mean, at least your hard life would make a great song.  Now, if you could only get the Dusters to write it up!  So much tasty dobro in this one, too!  And where would the band be without the stalwart bass amazingenss of Travis Book?  I love the way he hauls that thing all over the stage, too.  What a workout that must be!  Not to mention his harmony work…stellar.  Certainly makes for a great grass band show, for sure!  Garrett and Falco made some supremely fine contributions of their own throughout the song, dancing in and out of the texture to take melody only to weave their way back into things as if nothing had changed.  Expert work and a pleasure to witness.  Finally, to close things down, we got some more Allman Brothers!  Indeed, so, good friends…what were the odds?  First Sammy then the Dusters?  Excellence!  The oh-so familiar strains of “Jessica” echoed out to the mountains and through the minds and joys of the crowd and we all began to dance and revel in our luck and laughter.  Nothing like hearing that well-known melody coming from a dobro, right?  Damn, Andy Hall!!  How incredible could you possibly make this one?  Pretty damn incredible as it would turn out.  Jeremy’s fiddle was afire with all sorts of insanity too, rounding things out in a delightful fashion.  And did they band jam this song, too…wow!  Everybody took a good chance to get down here, and get down they did.  A helluva supreme closer for this wonderful show!  So many big thanks going out to the band and their folks for helping to make WinterWonderGrass so amazing for its first year in Steamboat!  Loved it, guys…thank you a million times over!!

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

Sunday coming soon, friends!!

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

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

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Monday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters - Greensky Bluegrass - Yonder Mountain String Band

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

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

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

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

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

Greensky Bluegrass with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm

Greensky Bluegrass with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm

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

Yonder Mountain String Band and Friends

Yonder Mountain String Band and Friends

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

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

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

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Railroad Earth - The Infamous Stringdusters - Greensky Bluegrass

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

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

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

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

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

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

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

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

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

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Sunday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

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

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

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

The Infamous Stringdusters with Nicki Bluhm

Telluride House Band

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

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

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

Edgar Meyer and Sam Bush

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

The New Stage

The New Stage

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

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