Telluride Contest 2
Roaming through one of Town Park’s innominate gravel lanes, I plop myself ten feet from an impromptu jam session. Like most bluegrass jam bands, this one features a mandolin, guitar, banjo and cello. The Tiki Tent–its campsite venue–is decked out with Hawaiian flags, inflated palm trees and a mess of scattered plastic sea life.
A rag tag collection of twenty or so people sit in lawn chairs around the tent. They pluck strings for a bit and then pull away from the stage at the glance of a wrist watch. They’re on pre-festival sound tech duty, so they shift their instruments onto their backs and head down the road towards the baseball field turned main stage. Their fans nod their goodbyes, too tired to move their lips.
As they walk out of range, one woman musters the energy to yell.
“I am beautifully and perfectly fucked up,” she says. No one responds. She says it again, louder.
There’s a language among these festivarians. I’ve developed an ear for it in my forty-eight hours in the valley. “Fucked up” was obviously making a desperate and unrequited call for sex.
Some are trickier.
“Festive?” one drunk lane-wanderer asks the band’s singer/guitarist as he passes me on his way to sound tech.
Translation: You are assumedly a talented guitarist, which I surmise from your swagger and the way you carry your guitar. Have you met Sam Bush?
“Festiv-al,” he responds. The a-l is pronounced like the name.
Not only have I met him, I’ve met his sister. Maaaaan, was she smoking.
“Festiv-ate,” the drunkard smiles and nods.
Word. Let’s smoke hash sometime.
I wander off, then wander back for “rumballs”—a pre-festival party that takes place a few tents down from Tiki. A group mixes disgusting amounts of Everclear and 151 with melon balls in large blue coolers. They plop ladled helpings into Dixie cups, which people grab up like candy, crying “RUUUUUM-BAAAAALL” and saluting the bluegrass gods.
Everyone seems to consume their liquid in the same manner: sip, grimace, shrug, and chug. I try to complete the cycle, but the grimace is too strong. I head back to the Tiki tent, my Dixie dangling from my fingers.
A woman is busy decorating toe-nails. Her work is spectacular, so I put in a request and am told to paint a base coat while I’m waiting for her to finish working on the toes of a grey-haired blind man. He plucks at a mandolin while she paints bold colors he’ll never seen. He tells me about his coffee shop in Denver, the Blind Bean, where he monitors the bean roast by ear.
I am impressed, especially by the way he sucks down rumball after rumball. I pass him my dregs and grimace for him as he chugs in one gulp. He doesn’t seem to suffer from the face-contortion flex. Maybe if he caught sight of those women emptying fifths into coolers I’d be writing a different story.
The woman finishes painting his toes blue and then breaks for more rum (how do these people DO it???), so I gather my thoughts with my bag to head back to our campsite. I decide to clean my toes and paint that base coat. After two days of swimming in this Town Park culture, I’m open to whatever she has in store.
Except for rumballs.