Magic happens here, like Emmylou singing about falling stars as one shoots over the main stage. How about when John Cowan sang “Dark as a Dungeon,” and the lights went out all over town? Double rainbows over Ingram Falls after a cooling rain? And, those never-to-be repeated, impromptu jams by some of the world’s finest musicians.
Fans and players return time and time again to experience such magical moments, hear fantastic music and enjoy Telluride’s incredible surroundings. Old friends reunite, new friendships are forged, and those who are no longer with us are remembered in story and song.
From the youngest picker to the most seasoned of veterans, performers and festivarians come back for the vibe of the Bluegrass tribe. “I just love the communal feeling of the festival,” says Sarah Jarosz, who, at age 16, is the youngest performer to have her own slot at this year’s festival. “It’s like one big family.”
Performers say the main stage at Town Park is one of the most spectacular venues they have ever played, and the audience is considered one of the best anywhere. The scope of the event is colossal, with workshops, Nightgrass venues, and pickin’ parties in every corner, camp, and cranny in town – music spills out of every pore.
So how do could you possibly improve on one of the finest bluegrass festivals in the world? Well, you turn it green.
“Planet Bluegrass had been leading the way for the last five years in making our festivals sustainable, and every year we take another step toward reducing the impact of our events,” says Director of Communications, Brian Eyster. “This year we’re taking a big step in making the festival one hundred percent carbon-neutral by purchasing renewable energy credits to offset the carbon dioxide created by our electricity, diesel and gas consumption.
“If you think about it, we have all of the artists, staff and 10,000 fans who are traveling by air and car to Telluride from all over the world,” says Eyster. “To account for the fossil fuel consumption, we are purchasing renewable energy credits, which largely go into wind power.”
Planet Bluegrass has long promoted recycling, composting and waste reduction at their festivals. And while compostable beer cups were used in the past, this year Eyster says they are instead encouraging everyone to reuse their old beverage holders.
“Our research showed that the compostable cups still require a lot of energy to make, and that it’s really better if people reuse their cups,” he explains. “This year, we’re offering an incentive for those who use the same cup for all four days of the festival.” Planet Bluegrass and New Belgium Brewing company have created reusable Nalgene water bottles that the will hand out to loyal cup reusers on Sunday morning. So dig out that vintage Bluegrass cup, and reuse anything and everything you can whenever possible, including water bottles.
“It’s little things like that when you get 10,000 people together that can really make a huge difference,” says Eyster.
To enhance the festival’s own efforts to go green, Eyster noted several performers that are jumping on the sustainable train, including the band Guster, which plays the main stage on Friday evening. These guys rock, in more ways than one, or shall we say, “Eco-rock?”
Guster guitarist/singer Adam Gardner founded the non-profit Reverb organization with his wife Lauren Sullivan in 2004. Reverb helps touring artists lessen their environmental impact by promoting the use of biofuel in tour busses, purchasing REC’s, and educating fans on environmental issues. The group encourages “eco-villages” in conjunction with music events that promote environmentally-friendly products, alternative energy sources and provide educational information.
Some of the major names that have gotten on board with Reverb are Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Alannis Morrissette, String Cheese Incident and Bare Naked Ladies. The list keeps growing as word spreads about this green wave of the future for concerts and festivals.
Learn more about Reverb from Gardner at the Elk’s Park stage on Friday at 12:30 p.m., or check out the Reverb website at www.reverbrock.org.
Celebrate Solstice in Town Park
Okay, so you have your old Bluegrass cup, your non-petroleum sunscreen, your free-trade coffee, and organic snacks. Now it’s time to make your way to the park and get ready for some serious fun.
The 34th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival coincides with the summer solstice this year, all the more reason to celebrate in a perfectly Pagan way. Thursday is the longest day of the year, and the official start of summer. Yee-haw!
After the gates officially open at 11 a.m. Thursday, the sensational Chris Thile kicks off the first set at 11:15 a.m. Thile founded his Grammy-award winning band Nickel Creek at age 8, astonished listeners with his debut CD at age 12, and is now a seasoned pro at 25, having sold more than two million albums. Over the years he has collaborated with many Bluegrass stalwarts, including Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas, and Mike Marshall, to name a few.
Thile will play in various ensembles this weekend, including his How to Grow a Band featuring Bryon Sutton in Town Park Friday afternoon. He’ll then reunite with the amazing Edgar Meyer on Saturday – Those who caught the two’s monster jam last year know you’re in for a treat. Keep your eyes open throughout the rest of the festival, as Thile is sure to pop up in other places.
Following Thile on Thursday, get ready for the rocking, raw sound of Crooked Still, the hot young alt-bluegrass band that fuses rock energy with backwoods swamp. Aoife O’Donovan’s incredible vocals soar over Gregory Liszt’s banjo rolls and Corey Dimario’s fat bass lines – and with the addition of Rusjad Egglestone’s amazing cello, the sound is fantastic. In fact, this may well be the year of the cello, as Egglestone’s work has inspired a whole generation of cellists to explore the magnificent instrument in a variety of new ways. Crooked Still’s first nationwide release, Shaken by a Low Sound, aptly describes the range of these young players, and shows that a band can rock without electricity or drums.
Thursday’s line-up continues with North Carolina’s Avett Brothers. The trio features brothers Scott and Seth Avett, along with the driving bass work of Bob Crawford. The three gleefully mix it up, with old-timey country, folk, pop, rock, and a dash of honky-tonk thrown into the blend for a hugely entertaining ride. Their CD, A Carolina Jubilee is a triumph, and definitely worth a trip to the festival store. Eyster says this is one of the favorite new bands at Planet Bluegrass, and this set should be super fun.
Stay close to the stage for the prolific Jackie Greene, who has been working the studio with Phil Lesh. Following an open mic in California, Greene was signed to Dig Music on the spot. An amazing multi-instrumentalist that the New York Times dubbed “The Prince of Americana,” the young performer has a number of CDs to his credit, including last year’s fabulous release, American Myth. Greene will light up the main stage at 3:30 p.m.
Next, all rise and give homage to The Telluride House Band, a super-fat collaboration between Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Darol Anger and Bryan Sutton. Their combined finesse defines the meaning of “thunder jam,” with no further description necessary, unless of course you’re a Bluegrass virgin.
The heat will continue to rise with Emmylou Harris, John Starling and Carolina Star at 7:15 p.m. The legendary songtress has a nice even-dozen Grammys to her credit, and has been out on the road as of late. Harris releases her much-awaited, five-CD set Songbird this fall, which will include previously unreleased tracks, collaborations and some of the singer’s personal favorites. John Starling and Carolina Star are no slouches either, with Starling on guitar and vocals, Mike Auldridge on Dobro and Tom Gray on bass. The three have been playing together for some 30 years, and their latest CD, Slidin’ Home features Emmylou on “In My Hour of Darkness,” a song she wrote with Gram Parsons many years ago. Expect magic during this set, as it seems that Emmylou can simply pull it out of the air with her amazing, ethereal presence.
Thursday night closes with a festival newcomer this year, with inventive alt-rock band Counting Crows. The band rose to fame with their 1993 Geffen debut, August and Everything After, which contained such enduring hits as “Round Here,” “Mr. Jones” and “Rain King.” The band now has numerous albums to their credit, and are lauded for their energetic live shows, where lead singer Adam Duritz often reworks tunes spontaneously on stage. Emotional, gut-wrenching and absolutely entertaining, it’s will truly be a treat to see Counting Crows live in Town Park, and a wonderful way to wrap the first night of the festival.
Off the Beaten Path
In the event you’re just "jonesin’” for some live music between now and Thursday, not to worry, as the Bluegrass scene is bursting at most local venues.
Tonight, check out the Lead Foot String Band at Tommy’s. These guys and girl are one of the finalists at this year’s band contest, and the winner of the 2005 Twangoff Band Competition in Chicago. Their high-energy, driving jam style has led them to share the stage with heavy-hitters like Drew Emmitt, Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Tuna, and Railroad Earth. You can bet they’ll “get the lead out” tonight and jam it hard.
Also on tap tonight, get with the roots-rock-acousti-funk of Lucy Vincent at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. Totally original, the Martha’s Vineyard-borne band will groove you with their deliciously rootsy island style. Featuring Kelly Ravin on guitar and lead vocals, Jordan Lee Berger on bass, and Matt Rosethan on drums and percussion, the power trio emphasizes feel-good music, and feel good you will if you get down to hear them at the Moon tonight.
Catch the innovative Colorado pickers Head for the Hills when they return to the legendary Moon on Wednesday night. The guys rocked the house during the ski season and will no doubt tear it up again tomorrow night.
Thursday night at the Moon, check out Wayword Sons featuring Benny Galloway. Galloway is a phenomenal musician and songwriter who penned “Old Hands,” recorded by Yonder Mountain in 2003, giving Galloway somewhat of a cult status, and deservedly so. The Wayword Sons are a fairly new group featuring many familiar faces, including Pete Kartsounes on guitar, the Greg Andrulis on keys and Anders Beck on dobro. You may recall that Beck was formerly with 2003 Rockygrass Band Contest winners Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band from Durango.
This year’s Bluegrass Festival Night Grass venues include the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, the Historic Sheridan Opera House, Las Montañas, and the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. The 6th annual Bluegrass Kick-off Party with Yonder Mountain String Band will blast off at the Conference Center at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night. This is Yonder’s eighth consecutive year at the festival, and the band is tighter than ever. You can also catch Yonder Mountain on the main stage on Saturday.
Las Montañas kicks it into high gear with a little Celtic flair for happy hour Thursday through Sunday. Stop by for a drink and catch the fabulous band Irish Greengrass from 3 to 5:30 p.m. each day. Las Montañas is the festival’s newest Nightgrass venue, and will jam with the Gail Holiday Band Thursday night, followed by On the One.
Other local venues featuring live music this week include Brown Dog Pizza, where Drew De Four has been amazing audiences with his masterfully fun piano bar work this past week. De Four makes his final appearance at the Brown Dog tonight. On Wednesday, catch the fabulous Dan Walker, who will play for two nights in the window at the Brown Dog. Walker made a swing through during the winter and was fantastic with his funky-Americana style.
At the new Bubble Lounge, another great band returns to town for a two-night stint later this week, Green Mountain Grass out of Austin, Tex. Here by the way, you can get some much needed oxygen and fruit-infused refeshers when you need a break during the The Floradora also features live music throughout the weekend. Look for Eagle & Company on Thursday for happy hour, and catch Telluride’s own favorite flatpicker, James O. Patterson with his Georgia buddy, the talented Christopher LeCroy on Friday night. Downright peachy.
And Tommy’s will hold their popular Wednesday night open mic, which this week should be a rager. The Turkey Creek Ramblers will be in the house for a spin on Thursday, pickin’ and grinnin’.
And There’s More…
A Bluegrass Festival workshop schedule will be posted at Elk’s Park, which hosts a huge array of intimate performances and workshops to check out. The shows are free and open to the public – arrive early for a spot on the grass.
To get the low down on this week’s Nightgrass shows and more, visit www.bluegrass.com. Look for more main stage coverage in Friday’s Telluride Watch.
Whew! Happy solstice, and happy festival.