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.