Telluride Blog Contest (thanks for letting these ramblings in here No Depression)
I moved to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado 16 years ago from a state deeply rooted in bluegrass tradition, Virginia. Having grown up listening to the Seldom Scene and many other Virginia and Washington D.C. based musicians, my eyes opened wide when I heard of a historic, epically talked about bluegrass festival over the twisting trails that led to Telluride. Being an 18 year old free spirit of sorts I put my thumb out in the wind with little more than a backpack and twenty bucks. When a convertible, 1970’s Ford Bronco stopped on Highway 160 East heading out of Durango I knew there was going to be a weekend in store that would course through the veins of my memory for all my years to come.
Upon arriving amongst the soaring peaks of Telluride for the first time I gazed up to Ingram Falls vertical in front of me like a marker designating the territory of a new and wonderful country. I decided to get a bird’s eye view and headed up a dirt side road, which in the early 1990’s was still home to a line of school bus and VW homes. There, with a bluebird sky above and the breezes moving through the deep pines below, I experienced Colorado’s brand of bluegrass: Hot Rize. I’ll never forget the notes lifting from Charles Sawtelle’s guitar, up the canyon walls to my ears. “High on a Mountain,” indeed.
That experience has stayed with me, vividly, for the past 16 years. I have plenty more memories chalked up as I’ve attended the last 15 straight Telluride Bluegrass Festivals. I’ve picked with Mark Vann by the cool waters of the San Miguel. I saw the String Cheese Incident in the now long-gone Quonset Hut (an experience that could have been created by Ken Kesey himself). I’ve kept warm at night with dreadlock girls under the stars and I’ve sipped champagne from the rooftops of $3,000 a night penthouse suites overlooking the nightlife of Colorado Avenue. I’ve seen living legends now gone on whose voices are etched in my soul like a needle putting ink to the skin. Telluride will always hold a place dear to me as I’ve walked in many shoes and warn many a hat.
With the 36th Anniversary of the event nearly gracing the throngs that have come to be known as, “Festivarians, “ I’m again ready to immerse myself in the masses, to find space in the trees and to have Colorado bluegrass strike me silly and awe me with wonder. As a blogger for No Depression I’d like to hear from some of the young voices in acoustic music today about how they feel in taking part in a festival that has reached legendary status. This summer’s festival will bring together some of the best: from the up and coming folk-rock sensations, Greensky Bluegrass, to prodigy turned acoustic experimenter Chris Thile (with the equally as experimental and jaw-dropping Punch Brothers), to established purveyors of the Colorado jamgrass sound, Younder Mountain String Band. As these young acoustic pickers take the stage to a field of fans and as they intermingle backstage with their heroes such as Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, I believe there will be stories tell, observations to share and thoughts to convey. I’m a 15 year veteran of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and ready to type.