Aspen Times Weekly: ‘Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Forty Years of Festivation’ |

Aspen Times Weekly: ‘Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Forty Years of Festivation’

by Andrew Travers


’Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Forty Years of Festivation’

Pastor Mustard (Dan Sadowsky)

216 pages, $50

Planet Bluegrass

Aspen was pretty weird and wild in 1974, but not weird and wild enough to host what would become the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, according to Pastor Mustard.

In “Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Forty Years of Festivation,” longtime festival emcee and Aspenite Dan “Pastor Mustard” Sadowsky calls the ski town in the San Juans the “Goldilocks Zone for championship craziness,” making it the natural home for the galvanizing gathering of flat-pickers and the people who love them.

“Even Aspen was too established to host what this festival was to become (and Aspen was a freak parade),” he writes.

Sadowsky’s pithy narration and irreverent, often hilarious, commentary – familiar to “Festivarians” and listeners of his weekly radio show on KAJX — help bring the history of the festival to foot-stomping life in this elegantly designed retrospective. Sadowsky charmingly regales readers with stories from backstage, onstage and beyond, with a cast of musical characters including Bill Monroe, Martin Sexton, John Hartford, David Byrne, Emmylou Harris and others, while attempting to capture the festival’s magic and phenomena like “the running of the tarps,” the “House Band,” the “Festivarian” and its astounding growth.

The book includes a chorus of festival voices along with Sadowsky’s. There’s a foreword from Sam Bush, short essays from performers like Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck, and Marikay Shellman (widow of festival founder Fred Shellman), along with an afterword by Chris Thile of Nickel Creek.

It’s a coffee table book, with gorgeous photographs of festivals past and reprints of its posters from each year, alongside lists of each outing’s perfomers that, in and of themselves, will quicken the pulse of any music fan.

The book’s design and layout are undoubtedly gorgeous, and its limited 5,000-copy first printing is aimed at collectors and hardcore Festivarians. The stories from the stage and behind it, though, deserve a wider audience than that – hopefully (maybe by the 50th?) Sadowsky can put together an oral history capturing the festival and its seismic cultural impact with a lower price point and a bigger printing run.

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