All Telluride Is a Stage
by Seth Cagin
08.11.11 - 10:09 am
There’s a possibility that the Telluride Jazz Celebration could be fined for closing Main Street on Saturday night.

That’s too bad, really. The town ought give Jazz a reward for bestowing on us all a bit of the old Telluride magic.

The festival can’t really be faulted for not knowing in advance that the crowd attracted by the March Fourth Marching Band would force the street closure.

The town likes to plan street closures in advance and to approve them and exact proper compensation for the costs involved – as it is a town’s prerogative to do.

But here’s the thing about magic: You can’t always anticipate or plan for it. When it happens, you sure as hell don’t want to get in its way, either, and the town does deserve credit for quickly closing Main Street when it was clear what was unfolding.

Odds are that the magic is not entirely new to fans of the Portland-based band. This outfit is certainly popular wherever they perform. But I have to believe that the magic they brought with them was elevated by Telluride’s Main Street at dusk.

March Fourth (M4) was a hit at Jazz, performing first in Mountain Village on Friday and at Elks Park and on the Town Park stage on Saturday afternoon. Word spread that they are something special and so a crowd gathered for the scheduled parade Saturday evening on Main Street. It was too much of a crowd to confine to even the wider sidewalk on the north side of the street, as was originally envisioned, so the Town Marshal’s Department had no option other than to close the street to vehicular traffic.

M4 is a circus act, featuring performers on stilts and magicians and baton twirlers, bright costumes, and a musical act inspired by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and whatever mythical marching band of the imagination inspired the Beatles to create Sgt. Pepper in the first place.

They play “marching” music, not exactly John Phillip Sousa and not jazz, but horns and drums that make you feel good, like you may have felt as a child when you first saw a marching band and could feel the pounding of the drums in your chest. They’re musically tight at the same time they create an impression of controlled chaos and the upshot is an unreasonable sensation of joy.

So this is what the dorks who played trumpet and trombone in your high school band became when they grew up, you think. Who would have guessed they were artists? And yet, weren’t they always kind of cool, really?

Bill Pence, the co-founder and longtime co-director of the Telluride Film Festival, often observed that the town of Telluride itself was a major part of his festival’s success, because it is in the nature of this picture perfect town wedged in a box canyon to allow itself to be entirely overtaken by a modestly scaled event like the Telluride Film Festival and the Jazz Celebration, or at least to seem as if it has been co-opted for at least as long as the event lasts.

So it was with M4 and their command of Main Street for less than an hour on Saturday. Telluride’s Victorian buildings proved to be the perfect backdrop for what M4 was doing, transporting everyone who followed the band up and down the street into a place not really of this world.

I realized later, thinking about the magic of the moment, how often Telluride performs this extraordinary feat, when there are hot air balloons aglow on Main Street, for example, and every year on the Fourth of July. And it’s not just on Main Street or on the Town Park stage that it happens. It can happen when you’re skiing Gold Hill on a powder day, or rafting the San Miguel, or hiking the Sneffels High Line. It might be catching a glimpse of a passing herd of elk on a hillside. It’s a combination of our cool, dry mountain air, the deep blue of the sky, the alpenglow on the surrounding peaks, and the things people do here to express their love of bluegrass music in June and mushrooms in August, and of softball and beer in the park.

This is all hopelessly sentimental, of course, the kind of sentimentality that anyone is entitled to when they express a love of their home. But on this weekend when the stock market was crashing, again, and the outside world was consumed with talk of a new economic order and ongoing political instability, again, Telluride more than ever felt like a sweet, sweet refuge from it all.

We know that we can’t really stand apart from the world. Monday morning will come and we’ll go back to our day jobs and the parade will have gone by. Sometimes, though, there is no percentage in puncturing the illusion that life in this valley really is something special.

© watchnewspapers.com 2011