On the Dance Stage, as the afternoon wore wonderfully on, Vassar Clements and the New Traditionals played to about 400 people, some hanging in the field playing Frisbee, while the crowd in front of the stage danced. Called the father of hillbilly jazz, Vassar is an incredibly versatile fiddler and musical purist. In just one example of his versatility, about two weeks ago, Vassar played an acoustic set with jam band favorite String Cheese Incident at The Fillmore Auditorium in Denver. Asked about playing with SCI, Vassar commented that they came out on stage barefoot. He said that he had a great time playing with the band, but would be afraid of getting splinters if he played barefoot too.

James Nash of The Waybacks
On the Main Stage at 6:00 p.m. The Waybacks played to a somewhat lessened, perhaps dinnertime crowd. Announcing, "Hi everybody, welcome to Telluride, we're the Dixie Chicks," before launching into "Been Around," a tune with a real toe-tapping beat and catchy chorus ("She's gone away, my one and only") while a little girl with blond braids rode the front of the rail and several fans sang along to every word. Then, welcoming everybody to The Spirit of the Suwannee Musicfest, and saying they were actually The Waybacks from California, "where we have the governor who puts the goober in gubernatorial," they commented that they were just waiting for the grudge match between Arnold and Jesse Ventura. The political jokes soon took a back seat to the music as they launched into "Bluegrass Swing." The trees at the rear of the amphitheater were beginning to sway from the numerous colorful hammocks strung all along, and were soon filled with restful listeners.

Taking a bit of a break from running between stages, we caught most of the Laura Love Band's set from the campground. The only amusing annoyance was the echoing quality, as the live music itself was heard in the background a second or two after the radio broadcast. Starting with "Amazing Grace," they pleased the crowd with many of their popular tunes including one of the "butt" songs, "Mahbootay."

A little after 10:00 p.m., Psychograss delivered their unique version of straight-ahead bluegrass combined with rock 'n' roll (called "daredevil bluegrass" by some) to a very crowded amphitheater, with large torches lending atmosphere to the sides of the stage. With Darol Anger on violin, Mike Marshall on mandolin, Todd Phillips on bass, David Grier on guitar, and Tony Trischka on banjo--the best of the best so to speak--Psychograss delivered an exciting and insanely wonderful performance. After a high energy "Coal Burnin'" for the crowd of several thousand, they launched into "Big Monk" (off their 1996 album Like Minds). Darol then announced they were going to premier of a new tune, a tribute to the power of the concept, and explained it was the chorus of the song "Salty Dog" turned backwards.

After the ripped-up frenzy of "My Dog Salty" (or maybe it should be called "Salty Dog My"), they delved into a duo of tunes, "Hot Nickels" by Mikey and "Banks Ohio." They then slowed down the tempo and played a tune with Darol hitting off-notes and sour notes on purpose at the end of "Key Signatore." After finishing, Darol stated that that was one of the scariest songs he knew, before playing "Impulsive" off the Panorama album and "Third Stone From The Sun" (also from Like Minds). Calling themselves "the psycho mountain boys," they ended with an encore of "Ride the Wild Turkey."

While several kids stood at the edge of the stage area with instruments in hand, hoping to get autographs from their favorite musicians, most of the crowd emptied quickly, perhaps to catch the end of Donna the Buffalo on the Dance Stage. Playing to a very large, happy, dancing herd of fans.

After catching Donna's last song and grooving with the huge dancing herd, we "herded" back to the Main Stage for the last performance of the night, The Gourds. First time performers at the festival (having had to decline last year due to the arrival of a new baby), this band from Austin, Texas, plays a unique mix of funky music, combining accordion with fiddle, guitar, and electric bass. Starting with "She's gone, gone, gone, tejano, and now I'm feeling so low," a tune quite tejano in flavor, the set later evolved into more of a rock 'n' roll feel with swing overtones. Newbees quickly deemed them the "Blue Man Troupe" of Springfest for their uniquely enjoyable vibe. We thought they sounded like the Red Elvises--somewhat kitchy, but very catchy and creative.

David Gans
On Saturday, the music began early, with performances by the Habanero Honeys, Steve Blackwell & Friends, and Gary Doles at 10:00 a.m. At 10:30 David Gans took to the Main Stage and played "An American Family" and "Traveling Man," both from his CD Home by Morning. Keeping the vibe a bit mellow for the morning crowd, he also played "Waltzing Across Texas" and "Sovereign Soul," during his too-short, one-hour set.

After Josh's Jam featuring Josh Pinkham & The Pinkham Family, the Reverend Jeff Mosier & The Ear Reverents took over the Dance Stage for their second set of the festival. Highlighted by their cover of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" at the end, Jeff wished everybody peace. Less twangy than his former creation Blueground Undergrass, Mosier's focus is now more on the rhythms and roots of the banjo. The message he wanted sent out to music fans was threefold: "Vote, get out of the house to go see live music, and learn to play a musical instrument." Their new CD (in studio pre-release stage) features David Blackmon, Bryan Lopes, Neal Fountain, and Matthew Cowley.

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