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Yonder Mountain String Band

WinterWonderGrass CO 2018 - Friday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2018 - Friday

WINTERWONDERGRASS CO 2018

FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE ARCHIVE

for The Lot Scene by Lindsay

Introduction  

6th Annual Winter Wondergrass Festival - An Experiential Journey of Colorado Connectedness

     Winter Wondergrass is not to be taken lightly. With temperatures barely rising above 20 and constant snowfall, it can seem like a daunting experience. Logistics can seem overbearing for the first-timer: Who’s driving who? Do I book a lodge close to the festival or stay at a friend’s house an Uber ride away? Do I fly into Steamboat or Denver? How many jackets is too many jackets? (The answer is none. Bring all the jackets.) Even the drive can make you sweat: Why did I wear all my layers in the car? You begin to disrobe; your bestie in the passenger seat pulls off your jacket, piling your layers in their lap. Crap, I forgot my new $200 ski gloves back in Denver, three hours away. But, be patient. This is all a part of the journey.

     As you cross over Rabbit Ears Pass, the highway begins to widen, and you get your first glimpse of Steamboat Springs. The sunshine radiates over the ever-expansive valley; the town lies nestled along the sparkling Yampa River, adjacent to a mountain range that hugs the Western ski town. You smile as you see the white tents of the festival engulfed in the thick of it. And then your friend says he has an extra pair of gloves. Things are starting to fall into place. And you haven’t even gotten to the festival grounds yet. It’s at this moment when all the logistical uncertainties fade away. You’ve made it to the mecca of all Colorado festivals. 

     Dubbed by the creators as “part music festival, part beer tasting, part snow holiday and part family reunion,” Winter Wondergrass is an inextricably woven mountain gathering. Yes, it’s appeal is created by the unmatched lineup, award-winning microbrews and word-class skiing, But, at its core, Winter Wondergrass is solidified by the immaculate organization, the experiential winter journey and the organic connectedness of the community.

Friday Highlights

Jon Stickley Trio - Brad Parsons Band - Elephant Revival - Yonder Mountain String Band

     The 6th Annual Winter Wondergrass Festival opened its doors on Friday afternoon with Jon Stickley Trio hitting the main stage. The sun was shining bright against the bluebird skies, and the Trio’s cosmic instrumentals acted as a soundtrack to the festival itself, mimicking an Opening Ceremony of sorts. Stickley looked out into the neon-clad crowd both in admiration and in awe.

The Jon Stickley Trio

     In between the main stage acts, attendees could make their way into three different beer tents, all of which housed local breweries offering free tasters for the early attendees. You could warm up in the tents by means of body heat and award-winning hops. Not to mention dancing to epic sets by Brad Parsons, Old Salt Union and The Wooks.

The Brad Parsons Band

     As the sun began to set and the temperatures began to drop, people made their way to the main stage for one of Elephant Revival’s last shows for the foreseeable future. The frigid conditions triggered mic  issues, causing the band to change opening songs right off the bat. It was quite literally a chilling set, wrought in emotion and unbridled beauty. Songs like “Raven”, “Tam Lin Set,” “Grace of a Woman,” and “Ring Around the Moon” brought tears to both the crowd and the band, instilling this sense of love, loss, and new beginnings. While the band encountered sound and communication issues throughout the set, the presence of two ex-members acted as the glue to keep it all together: stunning fiddle-gypsy, Bridget Law, and folk-singer extraordinaire, Sage Cook, who hasn’t been with the band in almost three years. It was almost as if those in the crowd and those on stage felt this sense of familiarity of hardship. It was cold. It was difficult. It was emotional. It was beautiful.

Elephant Revival

     Following Elephant Revival’s set and checking into warmth of the tent sets (more Stickley, more Brad Parsons and more Old Salt Union), hordes of people trickled in to see Yonder Mountain String Band headline the first night. The snow started to fall even harder, and the liveliness of the audience erupted. Along the same theme of new beginnings, Allie Kral looked stunning, glowing as a momma-to-be in her fur lined, floor length peacoat and fur trapper hat. Her sound ignited the audience, bringing warmth to those who didn’t even know they needed it. 

Allie Kral of Yonder Mountain String Band

     As most festivarians know, the real fun comes out late-night. Winter Wondergrass holds the intrepid “Grass After Dark,” and this year was stacked with so many great sets that it was difficult to choose. It’s recommended to check out the Gondola shows, where you can only access it by gondola, getting dropped off at one big summit party. People literally splayed out of the gondolas and stumbled into the venue. Grant Farm’s “Grantful Dead Revue” showcased the Friday night set, with epic Dead covers like “Althea” and “China Cat Sunflower > Know You Rider.”  

Stay tuned for Saturday and Sunday coverage coming your way!!

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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 - Friday

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

Strings & Sol Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Introduction

    The third time was most certainly the charm this year for me at Strings & Sol, Cloud 9’s annual bluegrass bash on the beach down in Mexico.  So much clicked and grooved and jived in all the right ways and having the privilege of plugging into that unique energy and wonderful positivity that is the Strings & Sol reality became all the more real and important.  And fun…we can’t forget the fun.  What a cast of characters assembled, too, both on stage and off this festival having become a quick repository for so many super fans and linchpins of our community as well as a growing number of multi S&S alumni.  As such, the subculture of Strings & Sol draws you in, seduces you with so many amazing experiences and wonders, and then delights you to the very marrow with unparalleled music, a heavenly atmosphere, and the chance to experience it all with some of your favorite people.  And that lineup?  Are you kidding me?  As always, just the kind of music I want to hear with a frosty beverage in hand and my feet in the sand.  Bravi to Annabel Stelling and all at Cloud 9 who have a hand in making this festival happen each year.  For our money at The Lot Scene, it is clearly one of the best planned, organized, and run fests around.  Honestly, it’s damn near perfect.  Please keep up the wonderful work, guys!!  So many thanks!!  I guess, for me, it’s the overall feeling I get when I come to Strings & Sol.  I am reminded so acutely of summer camp as a child…meeting new people and having fun for a week or so, making lifelong friends in the process, saying goodbye for a year in between…having more fun than seems humanly possible.  And the Now Sapphire plays a huge role in this, too, what with their staff (our counselors if you will) always at the ready to make things happy, to make us happy.  Seeing the same staff from year to year…see?  Just like camp.  And the anticipation.  An entire year’s worth of waiting to get back to the magic.  Back to friends and drinks and music and the beach and the pool and the Buffet and fun.  All that and more:  Strings & Sol.  Camp Strings & Sol.  But, where would our favorite summer camp in December be without the music?  Without those Strings we’ve been hearing so much about?  Where, indeed?  How’s about we get down to business then, my friends…  

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Friday Highlights

Yonder Mountain String Band - Leftover Salmon

    Annabel Stelling joined Yonder Mountain String Band for the traditional welcome toast as the waves crashed nearby and as everyone raised their libations high into the evening sky in salute to the good times to come.  Always such a triumphant and expectant moment and certainly a favorite of many in the crowd.  How couldn’t it be?  With so much music in store at that point in the festival, that must serve as a great memory for so many people who attended.  And then, in a flash, the music was off to a hot start with Yonder at the helm getting everyone’s feet a-dancing in that cool white sand once again.  They kicked things off with a speedy and energetic “Insult and an Elbow” from their album Black Sheep.  A good choice in that these five talented individuals showed that they meant business for the remainder of the weekend from the very get go.  Jake Jolliff’s early solo at Warp 5 was a perfect example of this fact.  And Allie Kral's answer to that solo a bit later in the song?  Riveting.  Plainly put, we were all in for some sizzling YMSB this weekend.  And we were loving it.  Another selection from Black Sheep was next in line that evening in the form of a fantastic Strings & Sol rendition of “I’m Lost”.  But, the best thing is, you don’t have to take my word for it because we recorded a lovely video of it just for you!  Please enjoy! 

Nothing like taking it that special vantage point from the beach at S&S.  It really is as magical as everyone says it is.  “Pockets” followed “I’m Lost” for this opening set from Yonder Mountain on the stage sitting blithely next to the sea, the mixture of music and nature creating a heady brew for the crowd below.  Really fine guitar solo from Adam Aijala about a minute into things truly showcasing the musical acumen that is so prevalent in this band.  And this was only echoed in Allie’s own extremely gifted and skilled musicianship exemplified in her own killer soloing.  The next song saw Jake Jolliff come up to the mic to take the lead on King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, yet another excellent cover from YMSB.  They certainly have a strong collection of those very songs.  Fantastic ensemble work from the entire group on this one highlighting that easygoing feel of yesteryear that this song evokes in spades as well as the round robin of sweet solos that kept coming round the bend time and again.  I really enjoyed this version of an old favorite.  Superb job, guys!  Danny Barnes joined the band on stage for a couple of numbers beginning with “Winds of Wyoming” which they took directly into “Funtime” and back into “Winds”.  Holy goodness can that man play the banjo!!  Yonder just knows how to interface with a guest so very well to bring out the very best of the collaboration.  Adam took this to heart with a lengthy and fiery good guitar solo a couple of minutes into the mix.  Such skill on that instrument!  Allie’s contribution to the good times on stage is of necessary mention as well — that good lady can evoke so much incredible joy from that fiddle of hers.  And we are all so glad she does just that!  All of this was in anticipation of Danny on his 5-string, however, as he lit up the night with his own unique brand of picking.  What a monstrously awesome augmentation to Yonder.  Bravo, sir!  Then, Dave Johnston threw down some duet action with Danny as well which was twice the banjo goodness.  So much string band happy on stage all at one time!!  And then it was time for Danny to bust out the lead on “Funtime” with Ben in support on harmonies.  What’s that about Jake nailing down some seriously crazy good solo work?  Yeah, you got that one right, my friend for that certainly went down, too.  Talk about a fun time, indeed.  So fun!  Especially when they slammed right back into “Winds of Wyoming” to finish things out with Danny.  Excellence!  Later in the set, Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon came out to add his voice and mando to the madness on the S&S main stage for a couple of songs:  “Summer in the City” into “Kentucky Mandolin” back into “Summer”.  Again, another perfect example of how well Yonder really synchs with other musicians.  I love that aspect of this band.  You could tell Drew was having a blast up there, too, smiling away in such the infectious manner.  Nothing like watching our favorite musicians love what they do.  The final song of the set came a little later with Larry Keel added in this time to increase that fun payout.  Yonder and Larry finished the show with “Sidewalk Stars” an old favorite in the YSMB catalogue.  Larry, of course, added his signature grit and sincerity to the performance which, if you are a fan of Mr. Keel like I am, is always encouraged.  What a way to conclude the opening set of Strings & Sol 2016!!  What a set itself!!  If this was an indication of what was to come (and it was, believe-you-me) we were all in for the best weekend of bluegrass on the beach yet.  And that was pretty damn exciting.  Cheers to Yonder for tearing the lid off Strings & Sol 2016 for us!!  Bravi!!

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

    Festivaaaaaaaaaaaal!!  Ah, the cry of the Leftover Salmon.  The rally that utters forth time and again from the great polyethnic cajun slamgrass chieftain, Vince Herman.  Leftover Salmon.  That band’s band.  That amazing ongoing experiment in music, madness, merrymaking, and mutual awesomeness.  What would S&S be without LoS?  Where would we all be without them to help welcome us back to camp on the first night of the fun?  I am just glad we didn’t have to find any of that out this year as we watched Salmon take the stage after Yonder Mountain.  I freely admit my bias here:  I adore this band.  It’s really hard not to.  From the energy to the joy to the music to the everything, I really enjoy all that they do.  But, then again, I really like to have fun at shows and Leftover provides fun in droves.  So, let’s get to that fun, shall we?  “Mexico” was our collective intro into how Salmon was feeling this year at S&S.  Drew Emmitt was up to the mic for the lead vocals on this homage to our current location, with the band in full support to be sure.  Nothing at all like that sweet, sweet Salmon ensemble sound.  Alwyn Robinson was serving up some serious beats that translated directly into sand flying around our dancing feet on the beach down below and while the rest of the band wailed away, stirring the pot in all sorts of fine ways.  Quite the auspicious start to what would be a marvelous show.  “Zombie Jamboree” was the perfect follow-up to the intensity of “Mexico”.  Erik Deutsch tore things up on his keys in that ever-more-respectable way that only he can.  As most of you know already, I supremely love that man’s playing.  Especially with this, one of my favorite bands.  Lighthearted and joyous, Vince heartily sang the tongue-in-cheek lyrics as we all jumped and thrashed about in glee and as Andy Thorn serenaded us all on his mystical banjo.  Drew took his own turn at the fun with a lengthy and lively solo on his mandolin.  Pure excellence!  Then, how about a big turn at “Tequila” with Larry Keel?  Oh, the “Tequila” joke, you ask?  Ah, yes.  The “Tequila” joke.  So, apparently as we would find out later in the weekend from Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, the idea was to play the ending riff of The Champs’ classic “Tequila” after every song and have the crowd yell the magic word.  So, Yonder did begin this…my apologies for not telling you sooner.  And it kept going.  And going.  All weekend.  But, we’ll get to that.  For now, it was still fresh and funny.  And how can’t you love Salmon with Larry Keel?  Next, we managed to get another great video for you to help transport you to the beaches of S&S with us.  Please enjoy this “Whispering Waters”!! 

If you closed your eyes, you could’ve almost been there, right?  That’s what we try to do for you, good people — take you there.  Later on the fantastic familiar drum intro of “Gulf of Mexico” heralded in the perfect anthem for the setting at the Now Sapphire right by that very body of water…or a little around the corner at least.  But who’s counting?  Hey, we were by water in Mexico.  More than good enough for us as we enjoyed this classic from Leftover, Drew at the vocal helm.  Some marvelous banjo badness from Thorn helped kick things into high gear as Drew answered on his electric guitar, all the while Robinson like a mad metronomic monster throwing down the base to the whole affair.  Brilliance from every corner of the band!!  Bravo to Greg Garrison on that bass of his!!  Bravo to Erik on the keys!!  What a showing!!  Then how about a little Hendrix, why not?  Why not, indeed!!  “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of my favorite covers from this band, and they just freakin’ kill it every time I hear it so why shouldn’t it be?  Drew provides the vocals for the adventure and the whole thing is taken at a quick bluegrass pace.  Magnificence.  Erik tickled those ivories so adeptly and sweetly, synth set to organ, phaser set to “kick ass”.  And so much awesomely awesome drumming, Alwyn!  My goodness…leave some beats for the rest of the class, please.  Ha!  Not to mention Drew on his mandolin and Andy on banjo!!  It’s enough musical merriment so as to cause palpitations!  Big, big music from this big music band.  After a small set break the band got back into the shenanigans we’d all been enjoying thus far.  A bit into that second set, the band launched into a “Funky Mountain Fogdown” with a “Tequila” inspired intro that developed into something rather fun and funky, indeed.  Maybe it was Andy Hall’s dobro that really brought the funk to it all.  Whatever the reason, we were on quite the ride through fast pickin’ heaven.  So much great musicianship going round and round and round.  Crazy good!!  I mean, Vince was nailing it on guitar like a super champ and then, bam, hands it right off to Hall who…runs…with…it.  I mean just goes and goes.  Such incredible music.  Not to be outdone, Deutsch comes in on those keys and just dominates until Andy Thorn steals the show on banjo!  Whoa!  What a rush!  What could you even follow that with?  Well, Salmon does it a little something like this:  “Get Up And Go”.  Vince singing to us about living life in much better fashion?  A perfect way to dance out the energy from the “Fogdown” before.  Andy Hall stayed out there throwing down those perfect dobro licks to enhance this travelin’ song.  What a player, huh?  That man knows his instrument so damn well.  So impressive.  So appreciated.  Finally, they closed things down for the night on the main stage with “River’s Rising”.  A great and strong staple of the Salmon catalogue, this one never disappoints.  It’s just a great rock song, you know?  Drew was in fine voice with Vince in support, throwing down the vocals like a a pair of rock gods.  This was a big one, too, clocking in at 13:54 — lots of music up in here.  This, of course, gave everyone the opportunity to shine and shine they did.  From Drew just shredding it on electric to Alwyn going nuts on those skins, the energy just kept building and building.  But the real creme de la creme was the mid section of the song, the jam.  At times pure, high energy rock’n’roll and at others trippy space breakdown, Leftover was determined to take the audience some place far away and special.  And that is exactly what they did.  Wow.  By the time the song came back to itself at the end of the more than 10 minute jam it was still filled with madness and energy and fun and laughter.  What an ending!!  Not a person standing on that beach wasn’t left wheezing with pure merriment and gratitude.  What a show!!  Festivaaaaaaaaaal!!  What a ride!!  And that, my friends, is precisely why we go to Strings & Sol.  Boom!  So many thank yous to the band and their folks who help to get them to places like S&S.  Thanks to the Cloud 9 folks for an amazing first day at Strings.  Ah, back at camp and couldn’t be happier.  So much fun to be had…already had.  Amazing.  And still three days to go!!  

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Stay tuned for Saturday’s fun, everyone!!

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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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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Thursday

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Thursday

DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

     DelFest 9 is being lauded by many as the best one yet.  And who am I to argue that point?  From where I stood at the end of things on Memorial Day, I know that I’d seen just crazy amounts of seriously wonderful music, enjoyed countless magical moments under the night sky over Cumberland, basked in the warm friendship of my family and people, and thrilled myself to the core in only the way that bluegrass can thrill.  This was only my third DelFest, however, I’d certainly say it was the best I’d been to yet.  But this shouldn’t be surprising to read knowing that the ever-compassionate and caring Del McCoury family was at the heart of the entire affair and had been since its inception almost 10 years ago (next year will be DelFest’s 10th Anniversary year).  Even through the rains and the steamy heat that followed, spirits were never dampened whatsoever, people choosing to dance in the downpour rather than shake their fists in frustration or anger.  So many little instances of merriment and grace surmounting stormy skies and muddy fields.  Humanity at its finer points.  And that ubiquitous DelFest grin attached so firmly to everyone’s face…a permanent fixture throughout the weekend and one that is very contagious.  That’s one of the things I love about DelFest; as a rule, people come with a very simple agenda:  listen to great bluegrass music, have fun doing so, enjoy with friends, repeat.  It’s as easy as that.  Doesn’t sound so bad, right?  Well, it isn’t by a long shot.  Seriously good times with seriously fantastic music.  DelFest in a nutshell.  And what a bunch of nuts are we, right?  Exactly.  But enough idle banter from me, you came here to read about some music, am I correct?  Why don’t we get to it, then?  Excelsior!

Thursday Highlights

The Del McCoury Band - Sound Check

     The rain was falling gently on the covered heads and umbrellas of the crowd as Del and his band of musical merrymakers took to the main stage for their traditional sound check performance.  It made for a lovely spectacle to view and Del thought so, too!  Their first song for us was apropos to be sure:  “Rain Please Go Away”.  Perfect and we all loved it.  Jason Carter had a hot little fiddle solo towards the beginning that got our feet tapping in quick time, readying ourselves for an entire weekend of doing the very same thing.  And there we went!!  Ronnie and Rob grabbed a little solo time themselves as the song progressed, mandolin and banjo, respectively, sparkling in the hands of a master.  Del, of course, sounded magnificent on the vocals, that thumbprint-unique voice so perfectly suited to his chosen genre of music.  Needless to say we were all off to a very, very good start.  Portents of good things to come?  You had best believe that was the truth, bought and sold.  Next in was a big DelFest surprise for all of us as Del called a gentleman named Mike to the stage for something very special.  Mike greeted us all from themicrophone, gave us a big “Del Yeah!!”, and then proceeded to invite his girlfriend, Therese, out to join him.  At which time, he dropped to a knee, and asked that oh-so-important question, ring in hand.  To which she said “yes” of course!  Right there in front of Del and the rest of us.  It was an incredibly sweet and tender moment which made DelFest instantly all the more special.  Del and band followed this with a bit of a wink and nudge humor with “Good Man Like Me”.  But why take my word for any of this when we happen to have it right here for you? 

Pretty wonderful, no?  I had the opportunity later in the weekend of meeting Therese and Mike.  Absolutely delightful couple.  I wish them nothing but a lifetime of happiness and joy together.  “If You’ve Got the Money Honey” was a perfect follow-up to “Good Man” and Del, again, was in fine vocal form, hitting those high notes with ease and precision to the absolute delight of the crowd.  The band was sounding and marvelous as ever, too.  Which is always a treat of the highest order.  From Jason on fiddle to Ronnie on mando to Robbie on banjo and round and back again, you always get a smattering to a smorgasbord of super hot, wildly well-played bluegrass music.  Through and through.  And when you have to very likes of Alan Bartram on bass, you never need worry about your musical foundation.  That man knows his bass thoroughly, there can be no doubt.  Next up that afternoon was “Ocean of Diamonds”, a tender waltz dedicated to devotion featuring an exquisitely lovely mandolin solo from Ronnie McCoury.  There is nothing like the look of utter pride and love on Del’s face each time he watches one of his sons sing or play.  Truly it is priceless and paternal and perfect.  That man really is love, you know?  Easy to describe him as such, to be sure.  Later down the set they played a “scary song” according to Del, “Eli Renfro”, a story of murder and hanging.  It certainly had a dark tale to tell alongside the brighter seeming instrumentals of the piece.  Another gorgeous one, of course, in truth.   So many good highlights already and we were just at the very beginning of DelFest 9!!  How just plain wonderfully wonderful!!  And so much incredible music already thanks to The Del McCoury Band!!  Bravi, gentlemen, for one heck of a kickstart to another stupendous weekend!    

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

Elephant Revival

     We entered the main stage area a tad late for Elephant Revival’s set, having raced back from our campsite after a gear change.  But we were ready when we got there for that special brand of string band music that only Elephant can deliver.  Bonnie Paine’s voice greeted us immediately upon entry, her siren song calling us into the mix of people and music once more with some mesmerizing fiddle and mando accompanying.  Always a pleasure to be graced with the sweet sonorous texture of Elephant Revival’s playing.  It’s like a comfortable, soft blanket wrapped around the shoulders on a frosty winter’s eve.  Bridget Law kicked off a slow and steady fiddle tune next for us in the form of “The Pasture” from their album These Changing Skies.  I love the intense and mellow drive of this tune, as the energy builds throughout the band as it progresses.  Bridget Law being one of the finest fiddle players in the business right now, of course, and her playing always a gift to behold.  And this is a band with a whole lot of gifts, mind you.  “Sing to the Mountain” followed, just a beauty of a song.  This one features some of those singular and superb vocal harmonies that Elephant has the market a bit cornered on.  Really incredible blend here and quite easy on the ear, no doubt.  “Go and sing to the mountain, go and sing to the moon.”  At which point we all howled at the moon, like you do.  Of course.  This was DelFest after all!  What a set so far!  I’d howl just for more great music from this band.  (And think I did do just that.)  Jason Carter joined the band on “The Garden” which followed “Sing to the Mountain”.  This one is a sweet and somewhat mysterious song which was only augmented in a beautiful way by Jason’s fiddle playing.  Especially when in duet alongside Bridget.  Really gorgeous stuff going on there — magnificent!  The vocal harmonies between Bonnie, Bridget, and Daniel Rodriguez were especially enchanting in this one.  Such incredibly good music.  Many of the band’s friends from Fruition came out for the following song, the raucous and energetic “Rogue River”.  The ensuing wall of tight vocal harmonies that issued forth from the speakers was truly something to witness.  Something musically mystical and masterful.  And fun as anything you’ve known.  Ah, the power of good music!  And let’s not forget the percussion breakdowns throughout as well…talk about your dancin’ music!  What’s not to just adore about this band?  Well-written, well-executed music by supremely talented and skilled individuals, all virtuosi on their chosen instruments.  And so much heart and feeling!  As in pretty much all the feels, right?  So grateful that Elephant Revival was with us at DelFest 9 — what a treat and pleasure.  Thanks so much to the band and their people for another incredible time!!  PS - Here is a quick video we caught of “Single Beds Are Made for One” — please enjoy!! 

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Yonder Mountain String Band

     Main stage.  Main event.  Thursday night.  Yonder.  Let’s do this.  And we were off into the night on the YMSB train with “Only a Northern Song” driving away from the station at full speed.  Tight vocal harmonies and plenty of good ol’ fashioned bluegrass instrumental work were the entrees du jour that evening for us all and we were hungry for as much great music as we could hold.  Allie Kral busted out some pretty kick ass fiddle alongside Jake Jolliff’s mandolin madness as they all jammed this one out, the both of them taking some sweet solo spots on it as well.  Those two have really gelled in this band, haven’t they?  The ensemble sound has has never been better since their induction into the group. Truly.  And “Northern Song” — always a big, lengthy, jammy start to a Yonder show, right?  And that’s what this one was.  Bang!  “Fingerprint” followed next with Dave Johnston at the mic for the vocals.  This one was a bit gritty and dirty in that good, good way.  I like seeing that attitude in Yonder’s playing.  And everyone was on point with their solos as usual — reliably great musical acumen, that’s what a person should expect from YMSB.  And get, in spades.  We were able to grab a recording of their next number, “Looking Back Over My Shoulder”, for your viewing enjoyment.  Hope you dig! 

Classic.  And well done!  Love that song.  Jake took to the microphone for the following song, a quick and grassed-up version of America’s “Sister Golden Hair”, as song that is fast becoming one of their new standards.  Fast drivin’ to be sure, this one sizzles along at a hopping pace.  Lots of mighty fine fiddle playing from Allie once again.  Boy can that lady saw away on her instrument!  Jolliff’s own solo was pretty nasty good itself, lots of effects coming out the speakers at us, more of that gritty stuff we love so much.  Allie was up to the mic a bit later in the set for “Love Before You Can’t” flexing those pretty pipes of hers.  She’s really come to own this song and it is just lovely.  This is one of those places where things just all shine in all the right ways.  Light and lilting ensemble sound from the band to accompany — fantastic.  Just an all-around pleasant song.  Brava, Miss Kral!  They asked Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter out to play with them for a spell as we headed back to camp to grab a bit warmer clothing before late night, the dulcet tones of guest mando and fiddle drifting out over the assembled multitude.  Another extremely fine concert experience at the deft hands of the Yonder Mountain String Band.  A big thanks to all who helped put this show on.  Talk about your headlining, right?  Lovely!

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

Late Night - Fruition - The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

     Hot damn, it was Fruition time!  And late night to boot!!  How grateful were we??  Plenty durn grateful, believe-you-me.  Plus we had conducted a super fun and really informative interview with Mimi Naja just that afternoon.  It would be cool to see her play after that.  Arriving just a scootch late, we entered the late night pavilion to “And There She Was” a current and long-standing favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  So groovy, so funky, so disco resurgence.  So perfect.  And SO catchy.  Wow.  I dare you to try to get that song out of your head once it’s there.  Bravo, Kellen Asebroek.  That’s all I have to say.  Oh, well, and bravi to the rest of the band, of course.  What a way to make an entrance!  Perfect late night mind and soul food.  Truly.  Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” is another huge stand out of the set.  Crazy good cover of a song I love.  And they sounded just baller, my friends.  But, then again, this is Fruition we’re talking about, right?  They always sound baller.  Am I right?  Jay Cobb Anderson took to the mic for the lead on “Fire” only to be joined in duet by Mimi Naja.  This one is a white hot Tilt-a-Whirl of madcap musical merriment.  And with Allie Kral guesting in on fiddle?  Forget about it.  It really just doesn’t get much better than that.  Especially when the band apparently decides to just rock the ever living everything out of the song and gets nasty to the bone with it in a super dirty awesome breakdown.  Fan-freakin-tastic!  A little later in their set we snagged a video of “Above the Line” so that you could check a bit of the late night vibe out for yourself.  Please enjoy! 

“Labor of Love”, the title track of the new album, was next in line, sounding just about album perfect and amazing.  A bit later they invited Bonnie and Daniel from Elephant out to jam a number with them and then Jeremy Garrett from The Infamous Stringdusters not long after.  Talk about your all-star guests!  And talk about your hella good times at the hands of Fruition.  Again.  Only to be thrust into the waiting clutches of The Infamous Stringdusters!!  Their good friend Nicki Bluhm was there to join them for this set which I was eager to hear live, never having heard this collaboration in person before.  And what a group to follow Fruition’s energy!  Amazing vocal harmonies and supremely great instrumental skills all rolled into one incredibly talented band.  What a force!  “Run to Heaven” was the first song they performed with Nicki that night and here is the precise way things went down for you: 

Wowsers, what a formidable combination!  Bravi to one and all for that one!  Later on we got the soulful “A Little Too Late to Die Young” with Nicki still on lead vocals, Travis Book backing her up.  A lot of big energy from this song.  Really enjoyed it, especially in a late night groove.  Mimi and Tyler Thompson from Fruition came out on stage to join the boys for a super mellow “Sitting on Top of the World” bringing their special blend to the situation.  Nicki also rejoined things to croon to us all once again.  Please no, anything but that.  Yeah, right.  How awesome was this?  Great interplay between Andy Hall and Mimi, too.  Really fun to watch and even better to hear.  Such wonderful music and so late at night.  How nice.  The massive breakdown at the end of this song had us all stomping and moving and having a ball as the tempo switched to double overtime.  Strings a-twanging left and right as the whole pavilion bopped along to this musical wonderment.  Kellen joined in the assembled group for some fun with a Travis Book-led “Cripple Creek” for us.  The Band — Del Yeah!!  What a cover to pick.  All of us were singing along as well we should be:  one of the absolute classics.  Another perfect choice for late night.  Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was another fine standout as was the closer, The Dead’s “Not Fade Away” with Nicki Bluhm once more.  What a way to end things late night at DelFest the first night.  Only Thursday!!  Can you believe it?  There is so much more of DelFest to relate to you, my friends!  And we’ve already been through so much incredible music.  Wow, are you ready for it?  Ready for more?

Fruition

Fruition

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

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

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