Rockygrass :: 07.23 - 7.25 :: Lyons, CO

Rockygrass 2004 by Tony Stack
Perhaps the most powerful variable impacting live outdoor music is the weather. Year to year, festival to festival, it's plain impossible to predict. This year's Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival, or Rockygrass as it has come to be branded, was forced to confront the whimsical forces of good ol' mother nature. Almost as if cued by the gods of blah, the jet stream cycled a mass of unseasonably cool rain clouds down from the northlands and over the mountains of the Front Range right in time for the opening of what is usually a Teva-sporting, river-tubing, don't-forget-to-apply-lots-of-sunscreen kind of affair. As a result, Friday, July 23 went down in the books as one of the coldest, wettest festival days in recent memory, with monsoon-like rains pounding the grounds of the Planet Bluegrass compound throughout the entire day. But such is festival life. And despite the challenges of listening to bluegrass under water, both the festivarians and the Planet Bluegrass staff proved to be one damned hardy and dedicated group.

Chris Thile and Sam Bush :: Rockygrass 2004
By Tony Stack
In spite of the weather, Friday saw good sets from the musicians. Talented up-and-comers such as Alaska's Bearfoot Bluegrass, the all-female Lyons-based Uncle Earl, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, and Nashville's almost jam-like Alison Brown Quartet all managed to lift spirits and keep the focus on the music, and off of the steadily increasing rain. Nickel Creek played through the tempest and set the soggy stage for the evening's allstar group, comprised of Peter Rowan, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien, Jerry Douglas, and Bryn Bright. The top talent shone through, but by the end of the evening even the hardiest in the saturated crowd were ready to call it quits.

Norman and Nancy Blake :: Rockygrass 2004
By Tony Stack
Come Saturday the rain began to let up, yet lingering showers continued to sneak in and drizzle the audience as if to say "It ain't over yet!" By this point the main festival walkways had been reduced to mud bogs, with the area surrounding the beer garden and the Rockygrass merchandising tent being particularly grim. Yet by mid-Saturday it had stopped raining and small patches of blue sky were spotted from time to time, much to the delight of the crowd, which cheered when the sun finally broke through later in the day. Saturday musical highlights included sets by Jerry Douglas and Bela Fleck, Blue Highway, the ever-improving Tim O'Brien Band and the legendary Sam Bush Band, which closed out the evening by hosting several guests including Chris Thile and fiddler Casey Driessen. Perhaps King Sammy put it best when he said, "I love this crowd. In spite of all this miserable weather y'all hung in there like a rusty fish hook!"

Hot Rize :: Rockygrass 2004
By Tony Stack
Sunday dawned sunny and fair. And it was good to see that orange ball of gas burning in the sky and flickering its warm rays down on the river, the grass, and a lot of mud too. But the sun stayed all day and continued to warm things up, including the music. The river was running high from all the rain and the word was that the tubing was as good as it had ever been, with the big water eliminating the "butt sharks," or pointy rocks, that usually snag the undersides of the unwary when bobbing down the St. Vrain with a drink in hand.

By Sunday evening Planet Bluegrass was back to beautiful, with a bright white moon hanging in the sky and the legendary Hot Rize capping the fest with a vintage set that included versions of "Wichita Lineman," "Keep your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," "Life's Too Short," "Climbing up a Mountain," "Wicked Messenger," "Walk the Way the Wind Blows," "Shadows in my Room," "Land of Enchantment," "White House Blues," "Radio Boogie," and of course "High on a Mountain Top." T he crowd was revved up for the finale and it was well-deserved payoff after a long weekend.

You just can't keep Rockygrass down!

Nick Hutchinson
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 8/6/04]

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