Steve at Telluride #36: Bringing the House Down

Telluride House Band

Well, it all comes down to this. It’s the Justice League of Americana. The Superpickers. Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton, and Luke Bula, each the current undisputed master of his respective instrument. (Except for maybe Luke—he’s awesome, but very young and there are lots of contenders out there.) It’s a good-natured collaborative, but you can still sense the competitive spark pushing each guy to step up and play the hottest breaks. It’s like a battle royale—gathering the toughest guys from each neighborhood and having them duke it out all it once.


In honor of Jerry's 25th year, they presented him tonight with a live sheep on stage--it's a tradition--Bela got a chicken on his 25th; Cowan got a pony, etc. My favorite stunner of the night was John Hartford's "Symphony Hall Rag," but the two-hour show was full of mindblowing moments. They were introduced tonight as "the best band in the world," and in terms of instrumental genius, it's impossible to refute.

Just before the House Band came on, Craig Ferguson, Planet Bluegrass's chief, took the stage and sang a touching tribute to his father, who passed away a few months ago, so this was Craig's first Telluride Bluegrass Festival and first Father's Day without his dad. He also related a joke that Jerry Douglas had told him backstage. I'm repeating it here because it really hit home with my experience here this weekend.

A guy finds a genie's bottle on the beach. The genie pops out, and offers the dude a wish. He thinks and says, "How about you build me a bridge to Hawaii?" The genie says that it's too hard and asks him to think of a different wish. The guy thinks again and says, "Okay, some of my friends go to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and when they get back they can never really explain it to me. Can you put into words what it's like to go to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival?" The genie then asks, "How many lanes do you want that bridge?"

Well, that’s been my assignment here, and I get the joke—I’ve tried, but it’s impossible to put it into sufficient words, and pictures just can’t capture it either. And that’s okay—some of the magic and beauty stays right here in the canyon. It’s been a wonderful experience. A million thanks to Planet Bluegrass and No Depression for allowing me to do this. I’ll sign off here with my 36th blog in honor of the festival’s 36th year. Last time: Good night from Telluride, CO.

Views: 27

Comment by Alexander Thomas M. Potterton on June 23, 2009 at 8:57pm
Thanks for the 36th Annual TBF photos, caught me in mid stride. Also caught a few other Telluride locals locals, The Reverend Haphazard, and Hawkeye w/ . . .
Comment by Patty Meneley on June 24, 2009 at 11:23am
Steve, I NEVER respond to blogs but I loved your TBF comments. I was there for almost all sets, as I have been for the last 4 years and when people ask me why I can sit for hours in the sun, wind, rain, hail, etc. I will point them to your blog and photos. Thanks for capturing another great festival! I wish I could sit next to you in the pit. Some of your comments were exactly ones that I made (Examples: Love Peter Rowan but I think it's time for him to skip the major festivals. John Cowan should be more famous than he is.) You and your brother came closer to describing the whole vibe of TBF than I have seen. Keep it up! Planet Bluegrass does off season shows on their ranch in the Wildflower Pavillion that are blow your socks off fun. If you can ever make it to Lyons for one of those, I assure you they won't disappoint. For example, this year we were treated to a very intimate and incredible Johnny C performance and a Cadillac Sky show that was probably too fun to be legal! Tell Craig he needs to fly you down for one.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.