Telluride Bluegrass: Friday Recap
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down and still somehow
It’s clouds’ illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.
When you are hanging out in a box canyon at 8750 feet, you immediately get to know clouds. One stray cloud on a sunny day can change the temps dramatically if it gets between you and the sun. A day with very few clouds (like Thursday at Telluride Bluegrass Festival) gets very very hot. A cloudy day can be really cool, even in summertime. Clouds in the evening after a hot day can have the opposite effect, though, and that’s what happened Thursday night. As I watched The TBF House Band play at 11:00 p.m. Thursday night with my fleece unzipped, I realized that the clouds that came in about sundown had acted like a blanket, holding in the heat that would normally have escaped and left us chilled shortly after dark.
The clouds stayed around all day on Friday, making it rather cool – blue jeans instead of shorts, save the sunscreen. As you can see from this pic of the crowd from just below the stage watching Trampled By Turtles at 5:00 p.m., a fleece felt pretty good.
Contrast the above photo with this photo of Thursday on our tarp, during the Cornmeal set. By the way, the three young men looking at the camera are my three oldest sons.
We started our day at 11:15, watching Chris Thile & Michael Daves. I had been looking forward to this set after spending some time with their new album, Sleep With One Eye Open. This duo mixes traditional bluegrass with a touch of punk and Thile’s (pronounced thee-lee, by the way) lighter vocals with the high lonesome voice of Michael Daves. Thile’s mandolin and Daves’s guitar seem made for each other – I believe they sound as good right now as anyone in modern bluegrass.
The Thile/Daves show did not disappoint. By my count, they played just about everything on the CD, plus some. They took “fiddle tune requests” twice, playing medleys of the audience requests, including Soldier’s Joy, Cherokee Shuffle, Over The Waterfall, Cuckoo’s Nest and Jerusalem Ridge. They also did Man In The Middle, a gospel song Thile once sang with his father. The set closed with “a song about sex,” Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms. The crowd was up and really into it. Quite a set!
Later in the day, we were “Trampled,” as in Trampled By Turtles. Their set began at 4:30, but the alley in front of the stage was collapsed like a night show. From the beginning, you had to stand up if you wanted to see this speedgrass band from Duluth, Minnesota. Stand up you should have, because you did not want to miss just over an hour of rocking, hard driving music. Their album Palomino has been out for over a year, but it’s still charting. It was easy to tell that many in the crowd knew the music, because they were singing along.
I had the opportunity to chat for a moment with Turtles fiddle player Ryan Young after the show. More on this band later with a separate post, but Ryan told me a few things I should mention here. First, he confirmed what we noted during the show: The speed of so many of their songs comes from the mandolin player Erik Berry and Ryan’s fiddle. These guys really work it. Second, the band keeps their songs short (as opposed to never-ending jam band songs) intentionally. They don’t like songs that get boring. I can vouch that their songs are not boring. Third, the band will go back to the studio to make a new album soon, probably in conjunction with the birth of Erik’s child later this year.
Trampled By Turtles lead singer Dave Simonett
Emmylou played the first evening set. In case you’re wondering what she played, here’s the set list from the stage – I managed to get this pic when I went onstage this morning to watch the tarp run.
Emmylou’s show was a treat. To be candid, her 2009 show seemed a bit slow to me, and I was hoping this year she would kick up the tempo just a bit, which she did. The Red Dirt Boys are a “hot band,” by the way. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Red Dirt Boys guitarist Will Kimbrough after Emmylou’s set. He’s missing his daughter’s 10th birthday this weekend, but he was philosophical about it, saying she gets a pre-celebration before he leaves, a celebration on the day, and more celebration when he gets back. Emmylou and the Red Dirt Boys just returned from their European tour (TBF marks the beginning of their North American tour). I asked Will what it was like to tour Europe with Emmylou. “Hero’s welcome,” was his response. Well put. He told me that, by the way, backstage standing in a group of people that included Robert Plant and Buddy Miller (speaking of heroes). Don’t worry, I finished my chat with Will without staring or making a fool of myself. I had already practiced when Emmylou walked by earlier as I waited for Will. High altitude here in Telluride, to be sure.
After Emmylou, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones played an energetic set that I enjoyed as a pure spectator only (no notetaking or thinking about how to describe the show), beer cup in hand. Other than a general positive vibe from their jazz-like bluegrass show, I’ll leave it for someone else to comment about the specifics. Railroad Earth came after, going on at 10:30. I had to miss that set to rest up for the late shows coming the next two days (Old Crow and Robert Plant), but when I dozed off the Railroad was sounding good on KOTO.
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines. All photos taken by him.