Telluride Bluegrass Fest | 06.17-21 | CO

Saturday :: 06.20.09

Jerry Douglas Band

Jerry Douglas :: Telluride Bluegrass 2009
Saturday began for me with the Jerry Douglas Band. As I walked up halfway through the first song all I could do was stare in wonder at the stage jam-packed with musicians. I quickly realized though that the overabundance of musicians was because the Punch Brothers were up there helping Jerry Douglas start off the show. The day started with rain that had lasted all morning but then the sun came out from behind the gray just for this show. Jerry Douglas has an amazing stage presence. Before every song he would tell the crowd why the song was written but then he would leave the music and Luke Bella on vocals and violin to tell the song's story. The words of wisdom that were in these songs is something that many genres are lacking but it is an overall theme in bluegrass, where the band members are not just musicians but also preachers of morals that are universal and wholesome. One of my favorite songs of the set was "Cave Bop," which Douglas described as Fred Flintstone meeting John Coltrane for the very first time. The end of the song trailed off into a melodious romp that complimented the story behind the song well. I walked away from the show feeling like I had made a new friend.

Yonder Mountain String Band

Jeff Austin - YMSB :: Telluride Bluegrass 2009
Here was a show that the devil himself couldn't have kept me away from. As the band took the stage, Jeff Austin, The Lizard King, gave his blessing and the golden rope dividing the throngs of young Yonder fans from the front of the stage was cut and the fence was immediately bum rushed. This was Yonder's tenth year at the festival, though eleven years ago they could be found standing on a street corner playing for free. They began the show with a Beatles cover that they play often, "Only a Northern Song." They followed this with "Red Bird," and then "A Troubled Mind" played in tribute to Todd Snider. After this Adam Aijala took over the vocals to sing "Rain Still Falls." As if by magic, the end of the song brought the sun out from behind the clouds and the crowd was illuminated in the late afternoon light. In the spirit of the stormy day they played "New Horizons" trailed by "Mother's Only Son." Ben Kaufmann and Jeff then jammed their way back into "New Horizons" followed by "Pockets" and "Angel." During this song I walked away to get a beer only to start kicking myself for it when they played "Dreams," a cut that will appear on their new album debuting in September. After that Sam Bush came out to join them and things got exciting. With Sam and Jeff both on mandolin they played a spectacular version of "Catch a Criminal" and then "Peace of Mind." It must have been a Talking Heads weekend because after this came "Girlfriend Is Better," which they transitioned flawlessly back into "Peace of Mind." For the encore they played "Sharecropper's Son." And with a thank you to friends and neighbors, Jeff, the band and Sam walked off stage, leaving the audience in zealous revelry after their phenomenal performance.

Sam Bush Band

Sam Bush :: Telluride Bluegrass 2009
At 8 o'clock I was back in the front row before the main stage to watch a man often called the King of Telluride. He walked out in a Buffalo Sabre's hockey jersey, flashed a smile and the band dove into "River Take Me" followed by two new songs, "String Bean" and "Blue Mountain" off of his new album coming out in the fall. After these two songs out walked Jerry Douglas, who helped him play a tribute to Jeff Black before doing a song that Sam and Black had written together. Bush danced about like a little kid squirming to get to a bathroom. He has the most energy I have ever seen in a musician and he fuels the rest of the band with it. The next surprise for the crowd was when Peter Rowan emerged from backstage, buckling up his pants as he came out. After a song with Rowan, Emmylou Harris came out to take her place on stage. It was great listening to Emmylou's voice accompany Sam's during "The Rivers Gonna Run." This show just made me wonder how many of these artists were waiting around at the festival just for the chance to play with Sam. After all the guests left the stage the band turned electric as Bush picked up his Mandocaster. When the band began playing The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" the crowd went wild but little did they know that halfway through the song John Cowan would be coming out to help Sam wail out the lyrics. The only thing that could top the show itself was the encore. Bush made a call for anyone still hanging around backstage to come on out and from the wings out walked Peter Rowan, Chris Eldridge and Jerry Douglas to help Sam play the best version of Bob Marley's "One Love" I have ever heard followed by "Rolling in My Sweet Baby's Arms" with Chris and Peter taking turns on the vocals. Hands down I would say that this was the best show of the weekend.

Saturday Nightgrass

After Sam Bush's performance I was walking around in a daze but somehow I managed to make my way over to the Opera House to see Greensky Bluegrass. At 11 p.m. the crowd was still small compared to the other nights I had been there. It seems most people were still over at the main stage to see Gaelic Storm. Tim Carbone was on stage when I showed up but after a few songs he stepped off to join us regular folks in the crowd. I watched the first half of the show up in the balcony, where my head was almost scraping the low ceiling. For the second time this weekend I got to hear some Grateful Dead music as the band finished up their set with "China Cat Sunflower" into "I Know You Rider." As the second set started the Opera House began to fill up. Carbone came back out and I could see Andy Goessling and Jeff Austin enjoying drinks in the crowd before they too would join Greensky on stage. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around to see it. As the band began playing "Ice, Ice, Baby," for the third time this weekend I had to leave the show before the gondola shut down.

Continue reading for Sunday coverage from Telluride...


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