The Telluride Bluegrass Festival will take place June 20-23 in beautiful, scenic Telluride, Colorado, nestled high up in the San Juan Mountains. Of all the bluegrass festivals, perhaps none is as steeped in tradition as Telluride, and at the same time, none is as musically broad.

The first festival was held in 1974, its lineup consisting mostly of Colorado bands and the New Grass Revival. Since then, it has grown in popularity not just among the eager crowds of music lovers, but also among the musicians themselves.

“I have been here, with a couple exceptions, since 1974,” says New Grass Revival alum John Cowan, appearing in this year’s lineup with his project the John Cowan Band. “I consider it a privilege and an honor every time I’m asked to return.” Mandolin legend Sam Bush agrees, saying, “I really wish everyone in America could be at this festival, and enjoy the music and the beauty of the mountains here.” Former Bluegrass Boy Peter Rowan sums up Telluride in two words: “It’s magical.”

The festival, aside from boasting some of the biggest names in bluegrass today, is also surprisingly diverse. This year’s lineup mixes traditional bluegrass legends like Dr. Ralph Stanley (fresh from his triumph at this year’s Grammy awards) and the Del McCoury Band with newgrass musicians Sam Bush, John Cowan and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and even folk rockers Cake, Leftover Salmon, Ben Harper and Lucinda Williams. The newest generation of bluegrass bands is represented by Railroad Earth and the Yonder Mountain String Band, and of course the lineup includes many artists that simply defy characterization, such as the David Grisman Quintet and Peter Rowan with Crucial Reggae.

Along with the amazing music and the stunning mountain setting, the festival seems to have an attitude, a magical vibe that keeps people coming back. Telluride’s faithful festival-goers, or “Festivarians”, take pride in the family-like atmosphere they create each summer, and even go so far as to offer extra room on their blankets to late-comers. Telluride is also more than just the performances. There are music workshops, competitions, and a family area complete with clowns and a petting zoo. The festival has something for everyone, but it's still relatively small, with last year's attendance topping out at 11,800.

Tickets for Telluride are on sale now and cost $165 for all four days, or $55 for individual day passes. The complete lineup, as well as travel, camping and lodging information, can be found at the Planet Bluegrass website. Tickets can be bought online or by calling 800.624.2422.

Susie Ochs
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 4/24/02]

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