Magic in the Mountains: Telluride Bluegrass Festival Turns 35
by Rebecca Thoreson
Jun 19, 2008 | 698 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“It’s one big love fest,” exclaims long-time Bluegrass Festival favorite Jerry Douglas. “Nuttin’ but fun,” quips Vince Hermann. “I’ve run out of adjectives for the festival,” jokes John Cowan. “But I will say this: My romance with Telluride has lasted longer than any of my marriages!”

Spectacular, breathtaking amusing and inspiring, the 35th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival is as astounding as the stunning scenery, and the festival is nothing short of magical, with major stars, hot rising pickers and fantastic reunions all set against the majestic backdrop of the San Juan Mountains.

Indeed, magic does happen in this marvelous box canyon, and the enchanted festival often sees dreams coming to fruition for aspiring artists.

FRIDAY

The Spring Creek Bluegrass Band kicks off the day’s lineup on the Main Stage in Town Park today. Last year’s unprecedented double wins of both the Telluride and Rocky Grass band competitions garnered Spring Creek slots at both festivals, and as bassist Jessica Smith says, the band is on fire, and ready to hit the big stage. “It’s amazing. I sort of think I know how it’s gonna feel from the band contest last year, but I think it might be more that I expect!”

Smith notes that most of the band members have quit their day jobs to focus on their music, and the group has released its second CD, Lonesome Way to Go.

“We’ve been touring in support of that, and we’re gonna be out all summer. “We’re playing Rocky Grass, of course,” she chuckles. “Also, we get to do the Blue Water Festival; we’ll be up at Grand Targhee and at the Big Horn Festival. Both are great newer festivals, I hear. Oh, and we’ll be playing Strawberry, too. It’s a total of 15 festivals this summer, so it’s gonna be hectic, but fun! It’s just awesome!”

Catch the opening note from Spring Creek at 10 a.m. today, and look for the band to be blazing throughout the weekend. “They’re working us hard this weekend,” she laughs. “We’ve got the NightGrass show at Las Montañas on Friday, the Bluegrass Brunch on Saturday, and we’re opening for The Duhks Saturday night at the Moon, so we’re gonna be busy, but we’re definitely looking forward to it. We can’t wait!”

Next up on today’s lineup, it’s the master of the banjo and longtime festival favorite, the incomparable Bela Fleck, who will appear for this set with a number of performers for his highly anticipated duos.

Fleck is celebrating his 27th year at the festival, and the astounding multiple Grammy award winner never ceases to amaze audiences, from his days with New Grass Revival to the phenomenal Flecktones, jamming with Strength in Number or any other imaginable combination.

Today’s duos will undoubtedly hold some surprises, but there a few likely appearances among the multitude of possibilities, including Abigail Washburn, Edgar Meyer and Boubacar Diebate, the amazing Senegalese master of the kora.

Ah yes, Edgar Meyer. The virtuostic bassist says he and Fleck have a new project in the works. “Bela and I are starting something new with Zakir, who’s a great tabla player.”

Meyer, as usual, has quite a few things going on at the moment. “Chris Thile and I have a CD coming out in September, it’s just the two of us. Also, Sam and Jerry and I toured as a trio last fall, and that was fun,” says the soft-spoken Meyer, who fills his schedule with symphony dates and other various engagements. “I’ve been working with the pianist Amy Dorfman, and I usually grab a few with Mike Marshall; he’s wonderful.”

Meyer adds that he’s been coming to Telluride for some 25 years. “There’s a certain type of spirit that just isn’t duplicated anywhere else in the world. There’s just nothing else like it,” he muses. “Mainly, the thing for me about the festival, is that I get to see my best friends and we get to play together. It’s really like family.”

Look for Meyer and few others to put on mind-blowing performances with Bela Fleck in the duos set, because, whatever he does, you know that Fleck will amaze with his extraordinary technique and finesse and with his uncanny ability to give other players “room to move” in the midst of all those notes!

Watch for Fleck to pop up throughout the festival, including for the final Telluride House Band set Sunday, and be sure to catch a showing of Fleck’s new film Throw Down Your Heart, which will air several times at the Nugget Theatre, downtown.

“The film my brother Sascha and I made in Africa has been showing at select film and music festivals. The response has been fantastic,” says Fleck’s website, which hints that Telluride festivalgoers are the lucky few who can see the yet-to-be-distributed film. “Look for the album and film in early 09, unless you make it to Telluride or Bonnaroo, or any of the film festivals that we’ll be shown at before next year.” One of a kind, and a beloved member of Telluride’s family, give Bela Fleck a royal welcome on the Town Park Stage this morning!

Hang on, because The Emmitt Nershi Band will be hitting the stage at 1:15 this afternoon, and you can count on a wild ride from the “Leftover Gouda” crew! Drew Emmitt and Billy Nershi have teamed up to form a powerful union, and the result is an amazing tour de force.

“It’s just fabulous,” says Emmitt. “We’ve got a new banjo player, Andy Thorne, who is just terrific, and Tyler Grant from my band is on bass.”

Emmitt notes that his band has a new CD coming out. “We’re real excited. It’s called Long Road, and will be out next month. It’s a little more rock than my last solo record, and there’re are a bunch of new tunes.”

Emmitt adds that a number of special guests appear on the recording, many of whom will be in Telluride this weekend. “We’re real fortunate. Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, John Cowan, Stuart Duncan, Jeff Sipe and Allison Brown all played on the record.” A first listen of an advance copy finds the effervescent Emmitt at the top of his game, so look for a mix of new and old material from these great pickers today and later on tonight during the Salmon set.

Of course, Emmitt may pop up a couple of other times. “Oh my God, there’s so much going on,” says Emmitt. “It’s just crazy between the three bands, I’m just flying!”

Yeah, look for the fingers to fly, and the vocals to soar for the Emmitt Nershi set, and expect the unexpected from these renowned pickers throughout the weekend, including at the sold-out NightGrass show. Yeah, buddy!

Friday afternoon also sees the return of another longtime festival favorite, with Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce taking the stage at 3 p.m. Rowan’s 2006 release, Crucial Country, captured the amazing live performance of Rowan at the 1994 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, with Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Viktor Krauss and many others all appearing in that magical set.

It is absolutely crucial that you have this in your collection. Check the festival store for a copy!

The iconic Rowan has been back in the studio this past year, and released his acclaimed Quartet in February, featuring Rowan with the Tony Rice Quartet. Gotta have that one, too!

Rowan is always a tremendous treat at the festival. Welcome him back to the Main Stage this afternoon. Who knows what new recording might transpire!

Next “come all ye fans of the roots and the branches” as yet another wonderful member of the family returns to the festival after a brief hiatus, with Tim O’Brien set to perform at 4:30 this afternoon. O’Brien took some time off after picking up his Grammy award back in 2006, and dug in to work on his latest project, the aptly-titled Chameleon, which came out last spring. The record easily flows from the whimsical to the traditional, and O’Brien notes on his website that the album reflects his heart.

“Every time a recording comes around, I think about doing a solo record, but when I get to the time where I really have to decide, I juggle a bunch of concepts around, and when one falls into place the others just fall away, and doing it solo always wound up falling away. On several records, like Fiddler’s Green, I’ve done a solo track or two, but this time I thought, it’s just time to finally do it all on one record.”

“Right toward the end of the time when I was writing and getting ready to record, I wrote “Get Out There And Dance,” he notes. “That’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and it’s totally fun. I really liked the idea: if you want to live life, you’d better get in it.”

Chameleon is a shining achievement, and look for tunes from the CD along with classic O’Brien gems in this set. O’Brien will be back to tear it up with Hot Rize on Sunday. Jump in feet first, the water’s fine!

Next on today’s stellar line-up, catch the sensational Scottish phenom, Paolo Nutini, who in 2006 was named one of the “Top Ten Artists to Watch” by Rolling Stone Magazine, and now at the ripe old age of 20 is wowing crowds around the world, sharing bills with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Kid Rock and Solomon Burke.

Known for his charismatic live performances, Nutini says he’s ready to land in Telluride. “I was hoping for a legitimate reason to get myself back to Colorado and there’s none better than coming to Telluride with the boys and sharing a bill with the relentless King Solomon, Bela Fleck and of course Leftover Salmon,” notes Nutini on his website. “This is the first gig where we’ll be able to showcase some new numbers, and under a summer solstice at that. Quality!”

Uh-huh. Incredibly mature and infinitely entertaining, Nutini seems to have zoned in on the vibe of the festival. “Let’s hope the mothership lands at a

convenient time and we all have a cosmic night,” he says. Indeed, magic is afoot, and there’s no stopping now, because the energy level is about to go off the hook, when Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby take the stage with Kentucky Thunder.

“He and I love playin’ with each other,” says Skaggs of his collaboration with Hornsby. “We met back in the late 80s at some kind of festival. He asked me if I wanted to sit in, get my fiddle and come on up, so we got out and played a song or two. So that’s kind of how it started,” he explains. “He recorded an album called Hothouse, and I was hosting a show for CMT at the time, where we tried to pair country artists to rock, pop and jazz artists, like Bela Fleck and Vince Gill,” he continues.

“After Bill Monroe passed away in 96, I waited year to pay tribute to Mr. Monroe, and tried to find some non-traditional players to do an album in honor of him.” “Anyway, Bruce and I did two or three gigs on Conan and Jay Leno, and had some success, so we knew we wanted to do a record together. We released it last year, and it seems like the Ricky and Bruce shows are actually driving the sales of the record. When people see us live, it’s really exciting, so the word is out that it’s a real good show.”

How could it help but be, with the two superstars drawing on their deep roots for this fantastic collaboration.

In the meantime, the multiple Grammy award-winning Skaggs says he’s got a few other irons in the fire. “Me and The Whites did a gospel album, called Salt of the Earth, which won a Grammy in March, and a Dove award as well,” he says. “It’s really a sweet record.”

Beyond producing the numerous artists in his Skaggs Family Records stable, Skaggs says he stays plenty busy with his own band.

“Me and the guys just finished Honoring the Fathers, which really goes back to the years of 1946 and 47 when Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise, and Howard Watts laid the foundation for bluegrass. It was such a creative time, musically. Mr. Monroe starting having some success, but was still looking for something unique, something that would clearly distinguish his own sound that was totally and uniquely his. I felt like the iPod generation didn’t really know the story of what you might call this defining sound of the past, so that’s why I wanted to do it. I walk in an interesting place, and I feel that I have some authority that I can speak to the next generation on this history that is so important.

“I also think that the record is important, because I think fathers need to be honored, for the health of the nation. This is something that has been lost in the last 20 or 30 years. The record has been received so incredibly well, that I think it strikes a chord about honoring the past. It’s not about me and Kentucky Thunder. The story is about what those five guys did, and I’m really proud of it.”

As if that isn’t enough, Skaggs says he’s got another new deal. “There’s a project I’ve got goin’ on with Cracker Barrel, which is a huge chain here and in the Northeast. They approached us earlier in the year and wanted us to do a bluegrass record, so we got the blessing from Universal. I’d been looking for a way I could re-do my country hits of the 80’s, so now we’ve re-done ten of our #1 country hits, but we did ’em bluegrass style, so it really came out great. That album’s gonna be out July first.”

With an endless repertoire, look for Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby to tear it up with Kentucky Thunder. “We’ll be playing some of the new songs, some of the old songs, and we’re really looking forward to coming out and playing Telluride.” Count on a couple of special guests during this set, and then watch out, as the final act tonight is ready to rock the park.

“We’ve got our old time slot back on Friday night,” says Leftover Salmon’s Vince Hermann. The legendary band reunited on the Main Stage last year – where, Hermann notes, it all began, nearly 20 years ago.

“Telluride is where it all started for us. It’s pretty amazing to take a couple of years off, and still have the muscle memory to play these tunes! But you know, it’s a really cool pile of material, and it’s a lot of fun to play, and good to be pickin’ with old friends. Well, not that old!” he laughs.

“We’re looking forward to having Bill McKay with us this year. Also, Jeff Sipe, who’s been playing with Keller Williams. We’ve got Greg Garrison and Noam Pikelny, you know they’ve been doing the Punch Brothers thing lately, so it’s a great group of players.” Hermann notes that Salmon has a couple of shows under their belt, and are ready to rip. “We just did a couple of sets at Wakarusa, so we’re warmed up for Telluride! Salmon has four or five festival dates this summer, including 10,000 Lakes, and the Mile-Hi Festival here in Denver. That’s the same weekend as Yonder’s String Summit, so Taxi will be doing that, then I’ll jump on a plane and get back here for the Salmon gig.”

Hermann of course is referring to his band Great American Taxi, which is also hitting the road this summer, and will soon be rolling into a venue near you. “Taxi just did a month-long tour, so they’re resting now. We went to Del Fest – Del-u-ride! It’s just a great festival, and actually, I’m gonna be staying in Telluride after the festival, because Taxi is playing for the Sunset Concert Series in Mountain Village next Wednesday, so I get to set up camp for a week, and see what’s in the Freebox. Maybe I’ll find an old Lloyd Loar mandolin in there, you never know!”

Drew Emmitt notes that Salmon is doing things a little differently this time around. “The key is not to get on a bus, it’s great to do the festivals and go home. We’ve cut out the whole rock and roll machine, and don’t even have a crew or manager, we do it ourselves now. I guess we just learned how to do it after all those years. It’s a big lesson as a band, to do all the tours, record deals, buses, and then come back around and do it this way.” He adds that Salmon is fresh after their hiatus. “I think it’s honestly what we’ve been needing to get some perspective and work on our own solo projects. Now we can come back and be refreshed. We’re ready for Telluride!”

You know it, Town Park will hop for this final set of Friday’s lineup with Leftover Salmon. Yahoo! They’re back!

Pace yourself, now, as there are still two days to go!

SATURDAY

On Saturday, start your day at the Band Contest Finalists at 9:45 a.m. These are the rising stars of tomorrow, and careers get launched from this contest. Just look at the Dixie Chicks, Nickel Creek and Spring Creek Bluegrass Band, who all are past winners.

Then, at 11:15 a.m. on the Main Stage, it’s the Steep Canyon Rangers. SCR’s Woody Platt says the band has been in Telluride before.

“When we first started, we would come out there and pick around town and fish in the San Miguel River. We’re looking forward to coming back as paid performers!

“We met in school at UNC at Chapel Hill, and the band thing started happening. We suddenly had enough gigs to make a run of it. It formed out of friendship and fun. We all get along, work hard, and travel a lot, which is great. Now we’re going on our ninth year.

“We’ve been travelling aggressively for the last few years, and are kind of picking up right into the heart of festival season and supporting our record that came out last year.” Platt adds that the Steep Canyon Rangers are busy these days, “We have our own fest, the Mountain Song Festival in North Carolina, so we’re working on that, and we’re on pace to do about 120 shows, festivals and concerts this year,” he explains. “We’re super-excited to be involved in Telluride. You know, we did Rocky Grass last year. We’re fired up because we get to do NightGrass too.”

Although they’re similar in age to the boys of Yonder Mountain, Platt says that Steep Canyon takes a different approach. “We came at it at the same time, and listened to some of the same stuff, but we’ve kept it pretty straight and traditional. It’s neat that the genre can go so many different directions. You know, bluegrass can go anywhere. There’s something about this acoustic music in the mountains that really makes it special. Plus, maybe we can catch a few trout in the river!”

Following Steep Canyon, it’s the tremendous Tift Merritt, who has a couple of dates on the David Letterman show this month, including this past week singing backup with Emmy Lou Harris, and another appearance on her own next week. “It’s really exciting, although I have a few butterflies,” she laughs, and notes that she’s one busy girl these days.

“I’ve been a touring machine, haven’t been home in ages,” she says. “I’m so thankful to be a working artist, although maybe I could use a little more sleep!”

Merritt’s latest CD, Another Country, shows off her insightful songwriting, tasty piano work, and smoldering voice. “I’m just really excited to come to Telluride. It’s so beautiful, no wonder everybody wants to come to this festival!”

Don’t miss Tift Merritt and her tremendous band. Letterman loves her, and you will too!

Following Merritt, it’s dobro master Jerry Douglas, who has 12 Grammys under his belt, and accolades too numerous to mention. Still, the guy is as down-home as can be.

When I caught up with him last week, he had just finished rehearsal with the Telluride House Band. “I was getting tired of those guys anyway,” he jokes.

“I gotta go fix a tractor wheel, so I needed a little break.”

The delicious Douglas says that his band has a new CD on the way later this summer. “It comes out in August, and will be called Glide. I still like it when I listen back. It’s all new material, except one old song,” he explains.

“This one is more directed at the Telluride audience. There’s more dobro than lap steel and more acoustic-based than my last record. I guess you could call it punk-country-jazz,” he chuckles.

“Travis Tritt ended up singing a track on this record,” he continues. “You know, I’ve played on a bunch of his number-one records, so I’m hoping this one will turn it around for me!”

Douglas adds that he tapped a few other heavy-hitters for the project. “There’s also Rodney Crowell, Tony Rice, and Lloyd Greene, and we’ve got Sam and Edgar on there too.”

A couple more Douglas buddies from the “House Band” will be appearing in a different configuration later this summer: “Sam, Edgar and I are doing a trio at RockyGrass this year, so we’ve been rehearsing. We’ll be ready! We’re not lyin’ down yet! We’re there to blast the audience.”

Douglas notes that he has a little time off from his, er, other gig. “I’ve got the summer off from Allison, she’s out with Robert, so I’m touring with my band this summer, but maybe a little more leisurely than in the past, partially because of the gas costs. We’re almost forced to pass along the increase to ticketholders, and we don’t want to do that. It sucks!” Douglas says the fuel crunch is pushing performers to carry less equipment on the road. “It’s like I have to scale back the pedal board, so I don’t take 500 pounds of junk with me! Still, I’m happy to be playing music for a living. It’s nice to be doing something that we love.”

Douglas is hitting the festival for about the 25th time in his career.

“I love playing in Telluride. I used to try to reinvent my stuff for the festival to keep it fresh. Then I get here and say, ‘what was I worried about?’ The vibe is constant, so many people come back every year, and it’s just a crazy crowd. They give us so much, so we’re really happy to give it back to them.”

Got that right! Give it up for The Jerry Douglas Band on Saturday afternoon!

Take a breather, and catch the Telluride Troubadour after Douglas’s set, and then get ready, because it will be full-on, when Yonder Mountain String Band takes the Main Stage.

“We played Bonnaroo last weekend, and now Telluride, so it’s not a shabby week,” quips Jeff Austin. “It’s really the treat of the year to come to Telluride. It’s the best audience you can play for. It’s like coming home for us.”

‘Nuff said. Hopefully you can catch Yonder several times this weekend. Whoo-hoo! Telluride loves these guys.

It’s a tough act to follow, but Brett Dennen is just the guy to do it. The powerful singer/songwriter is winning audiences over around the world, and is another rising star named by Rolling Stone as one of the “top ten artists to watch.” Look for him to wow ya!

All rise, as the King of Telluride, Sam Bush hits the stage with his band on Saturday night at 8 p.m. Bush has been at nearly all of the festivals over the past 30-plus years, and for all four days!

Sadly, Sam’s father passed away last week, so let him know that there are 10,000 hearts sending love to him and his family this weekend.

The show will go on, and the consummate performer always pulls a few surprises out of his hat. Innumerable guests will likely grace the stage for this set. Welcome home, Sam!

Saturday night’s Main Stage events conclude with The Frames, headed up by none other than the fabulous singer and guitarist Glen Hansard. Ireland’s hottest band will take you on a rollicking Celtic ride. Be there to jig until the final note!

SUNDAY

Sunday’s line-up is superb, and kicks off with another royal guest, King Solomon Burke, whose career spans decades, and whose style easily flows from soul to blues, rock and country.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, Burke picked up a Grammy in 2002 for the Best Contemporary Blues Album. A few years later, he turned around and released the glorious Nashville, which featured such luminaries as Dolly Parton, Sam Bush and Emmy Lou Harris.

Burke confides that he aims to please. “It’s very exciting to be coming. I just finished my new album Like a Fire, which just came out this week, so it’s brand new. We’ll be playing some of the songs from Nashville, and we’ll be doing some old songs, like ‘Down in the Valley,’ ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’ and ‘Proud Mary,’” he exclaims. “We’ll do some rockin’ and rollin’ and gospel things, and we like those special requests. Go to the website and tell us what you want to hear!”

The tireless performer says Telluride is one of the first stops on his current tour, and he’s packing along quite an entourage. “This is the beginning of our world tour, from Nashville to Telluride, and then we do 36 days in Europe. I’m bringing my band, and my daughters and my granddaughters, so a good time will be had by all in that beautiful town! We’re gonna get out there and soak up the glory of God’s goodness in all that nature!”

“The anticipation is so strong,” he adds. “I want everyone to have a great time and do some singing, shouting and clapping. You all come join in and be prepared!

“Bring your dancing shoes, your singing voice, your tambourine and bells. Come one, come all and let’s have a ball!”

As if you couldn’t tell, Burke is all about the love. “The secret with me is that I’m one of the folks. You know, we’re all one big family. It’s all about togetherness, and sending a lotta love to everybody all around the world. So big hugs, love, joy and a festival of peace for everybody!”

Amen! Don’t miss Sunday morning with King Solomon. He’ll take you higher, and the set the tone for the final day of the festival.

The Duhks hit the stage next, and the smoking hot band out of Winnipeg successfully fuses Celtic, folk, soul and samba in one of the wildest ways you’ve ever heard. The band caught Bela Fleck’s ear, and Fleck produced their sensational self-titled CD a few years ago. The group has a string of great recordings to their credit, with the new CD Fast-Paced World about to be released. “It’s the first album with the new line-up and we’re very excited to share this evolution with everyone,” says Sarah Dugas. “For the first time in The Duhks’ history, we have an album that consists of mostly original material and because of that, you get to know the band’s personalities maybe more than ever!”

The band tours relentlessly, and will be bouncing back and forth from the U.S. to Canada this summer, with plans to hit the U.K. and Denmark in the fall.

In addition to their busy schedule, the band is a big promoter of the sustainability aspect of being on the road. “I think that finding sustainable ways to live is essential for us as a species, and as musicians we are no exception,” says Dugas. “It is a fascinating time to be alive and to be part of the revolution. As musicians, we can certainly set an example at festivals by supporting and encouraging the festivals who are making the effort as well as spreading the word to all the other festivals!”

The Duhks fit right in at Planet Bluegrass, with its sustainability mission, and Dugas says they’re stoked to be returning to town. “It is so great to be back! We are so excited to share our new lineup with the folks at Telluride!”

A high-energy romp through a kaleidoscope of styles, don’t miss The Duhks

this weekend, including at the NightGrass show at the Moon on Saturday night.

You’ll not want to leave the park on Sunday afternoon, because it’s time to get on your feet for the Punch Brothers, featuring the incredible Chris Thile.

The super-mando-man is joined by a pile of familiar pickers, including the Infamous Stringduster’s Chris Eldridge, plus the wide-ranging phenoms, Greg Garrison and Noam Pikelny, who play with just about everyone, including Salmon. Thile’s buddy Gabe Witcher joins the wild bunch on violin, and this, my friends, is the future of bluegrass.

Drawing on a deep respect for tradition, the virtuoso quintet takes the music beyond the outer limits, and get ready to get your socks knocked off by this amazing group of young players. A dream band, look for all of these guys to cross-pollinate with other players throughout the weekend, and this set will leave you breathless!

Stick around, the next collaboration could go anywhere, and probably will, when the John Cowan and Darrell Scott Band takes the stage.

“It’s just freakin’ fantastic, this deal we’ve got goin’,” says Cowan. “We’ve done so much over the years together, but our whole focus with this project was playing at the Telluride festival. It’s a big rockin’ band with two guitars. Darrell’s on electric and singing, and two of our good friends from Vince Gill’s Band are with us, Tom Britt on guitar and Billy Thomas who’s on drums and sings. Reese Wynans is playing keys with us, who was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s keyboard player. And I’m singing and playing bass,” he adds, quite humbly.

Cowan notes that he’s been coming to the festival for, well, awhile, and adds that this group of players are longtime friends. “Tom and I have been friends since we were 17, and Tom was actually with us when New Grass Revival played in Telluride back in 79. I think that was the fifth annual. The combination of these players is just stunning, and I’m so excited about it,” he says, and adds that the selection of material is vast.

“It’s a little bit of everything. We’re doing some of Darrell’s repertoire, some of mine, and we’re even doing an old New Grass tune, so it’s just a great, we can go anywhere. It’s gonna be wonderful. Be prepared – like a Boy Scout!”

Cowan notes that his own tremendous group, the John Cowan Band, has been busy in the studio. “Our band has a record in the can. We’re getting ready to put it out, so we got one cookin’ in the oven,” he laughs, with that famous tenor voice.

Look for Cowan, Scott and company to cook for the Sunday afternoon set. Rock and roll, baby!

The festival may be winding down by Sunday afternoon, but things will continue to heat up in Town Park, with Hot Rize featuring Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. Pete Wernick, Nick Forster, Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton will tear it up, Hot Rize style. Welcome this fantastic group of players back to the Main Stage, Telluride style!

Sunday evening, Glen Hansard makes an encore appearance with The Swell Season featuring Marketa Irglova. Hopefully by now you’ve seen the phenomenal film Once, which garnered the pair a couple of Grammy nominations, and an Oscar award for Best Song of this year. Fantastically fresh, The Swell Season will make a swell cap to a swell festival, or at least the penultimate cap, as there’s the final big shin-dig to go, when The Telluride House Band takes the stage.

This group of guys needs little introduction, as they simply are the best of the best, with Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton and Luke Bulla teaming up for a jam that happens no where else on the planet. I don’t know if you can count how many Grammy awards and other accolades that these guys have between them, or that it matters.

What does matter, is that you stick around for every amazing riff, and expect special guests and a massive thunder jam from this fabulous group of musicians.

The icing on the proverbial cake, these guys are the crème de la crème, and be sure to pay homage to the Royal House Band Sunday night.

But, the end of the festival is still a long ways away, and there are millions of notes to be plucked, picked and fiddled in the meantime.

The downtown scene is bursting with music, so get out and about to take in as much as you possibly can.

Of course there are all of the notorious Nightgrass venues, with the Sheridan Opera House, Las Montañas and the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon having tremendous line-ups throughout the weekend.

Elks Park across from the County Courthouse is the place to be for fabulous free concerts, workshops and more. Be sure to check the schedule often, as it does change, and you never know you might drop in for a jam!

Adjacent to Elks Park, swing into Tommy’s to cool off, and check out local rockers Lane Rider and R.C. Gartrell of The Voles in an acoustic set this afternoon. Later tonight, it’s The Mostest at Tommy’s, who will cook. On Saturday, Tommy’s hosts Rock Creek and Company, featuring the marvelous Mary June Page, and on Saturday, get ready for a little pickin’ and grinnin’ with The Turkey Creek Ramblers, the local boys who are on the upward spiral. As they say, “smoking mountain grass!” Yee-hah!

Just to the south of Elks Park, it’s the Noir Bar, and if you need a break from bluegrass, here’s just the ticket, with the divine DJ Harry rolling in for a spin on Saturday night.

Roll around the block to The Bubble Lounge, which is hosting the Green Mountain Grass marathon this weekend, with a number of special guests, including Elegant Survival Concept and Turbine. Grab a shot of O2 to keep you going, and stop by the Bubble Lounge on Sunday night for the Bluegrass Decompress Closing Night Party with Green Mountain Grass and friends.

Catch Grass it Up with Bruce Hayes at The Brown Dog Pizza Company tonight, and look for a couple of Hayes’ buddies to be hovering, including Dave Andersen, who’s back in town for the weekend. The phenomenal Pete Kartsounes may be popping up to pick a bit, and down at the Elk’s Lodge on Pacific Street, check out Hillbilly Hotel featuring Joey Lindly and Tony Rosario on Friday and Saturday nights.

Oh, and there are the now-notorious Port-a-Party jams in Town Park, no kidding!

Truly there is nothing else like it on the planet.

Happy Solstice, and best wishes for a magical festival!
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