Salivating About Festivating
As Leftover Salmon lead singer Vince Herman likes to say, at times both appropriate and random:”Festi-vaaaal.”I know exactly what Vince means. A large percentage of my most memorable experiences in life have been festival-related: planning for festivals, traveling to festivals, covering festivals (as a reporter) and recovering from festivals. And, of course, attending festivals. I love festival clothes, festival settings, festival food (Mmmm, eggplant-spinach naan). I love hearing 15 bands in four days.Apparently a lot of people feel the same way as I do. Music festivals are in a fairly massive growth stage. There are festivals everywhere, all the time, of all kinds. Advances in festival technology – parking, water, toilets, sound systems, promotion, etc. – have made it possible to throw massive-scale festivals in the most remote places. Witness last year’s monstrous, highly successful Bonnaroo on farmland in Manchester, Tenn. The ease of putting on a festival has allowed micro-festivals in places like Crystal Meadows Resort, a camping site outside of Somerset, which is itself like a suburb of Paonia. Many bands, especially those of the jam variety, put on their own weekend-long festivals. With the right itinerary, one could probably go from Memorial Day through Labor Day and hit a music festival every day. For some idea of how the festival world has exploded, check out the latest edition of Relix magazine. Following is a look at a selection of upcoming multi-day, outdoor music festivals – small and grand, near and far.Old Blue Memorial Day Bluegrass FestivalMay 23-25, Grand JunctionThe names aren’t big at Old Blue: acts include the Dry Branch Fire Squad, True Blue, the Grasshoppers, Bluegrass Patriots – and those are the headliners. But there’s big ideas here: Each day features up to 10 acts; the venue moves from an outdoor stage to indoor room for nighttime sets; and there are workshops and kid’s acts to round out the weekend. Old Blue is at and outside Grand Junction’s Adams Mark Hotel.A Weekend of BluegrassJune 6-8, Crystal Meadows Resort, near SomersetCrystal Meadows Resort, a remote campground outside of tiny Somerset, is stepping up its Weekend of Bluegrass this year. Headlining are the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band duo of Jimmy Ibbotson & John McEuen and the John Cowan Band; also on the bill are the Hickory Project and local acts the Flying Dog Bluegrass Band and Frying Pan Bluegrass Band.BonnarooJune 13-15, Manchester, Tenn.Bonnaroo NEAug. 8-10, Riverhead, N.Y.The biggest name in festivals at the moment is Bonnaroo. Last year’s inaugural Bonnaroo attracted some 70,000 to a 500-acre spread in central Tennessee to hear Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio, String Cheese Incident and plenty more. The festival earned kudos for its smooth organization and mellow vibe.This year’s festival is sold out, and with a massive lineup including – are you ready? – the Dead, Widespread Panic, Neil Young, the Allman Brothers Band, Ben Harper, Galactic, Lucinda Williams, the Funky Meters, Bla Fleck & the Flecktones, the Wailers, G. Love & Special Sauce, Spearhead, Nickel Creek, Medeski, Martin & Wood and literally dozens more, it’s no wonder.So what’s such a festival to do? Expand, of course. Introducing Bonnaroo NE (for Northeast), making its debut Aug. 8-10 in Riverhead, on New York’s Long Island. Bonnaroo NE features Bob Dylan, the Dead, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, String Cheese Incident, Gov’t Mule and many more. And there are still tickets to be had. Blues & BonesJune 14-15, Mile High stadiumBlues and barbecue are an ideal match. Throw in an ancient wooden shack outside some Mississippi Delta farm town and it’s heaven – but in Denver, the field of Mile High will have to suffice. The music will be excellent, with the Derek Trucks Band, Marcia Ball, the subdudes and more. On the bones side, hordes of Denver smokers will be setting up pits, competing for prizes in sauce, ribs, brisket and other categories.Jazz Aspen Snowmass June FestivalJune 19-22, AspenJazz Aspen’s June Festival, which has become second-fiddle to its increasingly popular Labor Day Festival, gets a shaking up in its 13th year. The festival-under-a-tent moves from Snowmass Village to Aspen’s Rio Grande Park. Jazz Aspen’s first downtown festival, and first Aspen festival in a decade, will include headliners Tony Bennett, Boz Scaggs and Joe Cocker.Jazz Aspen plans to make good use of its new location: free afternoon and evening concerts will be staged on the Cooper Avenue mall each day, with concerts filling Aspen’s clubs at night. Artists scheduled to perform away from the main stage include Brad Mehldau, Pato Banton, Kermit Ruffins, Patricia Barber and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress.Telluride Bluegrass FestivalJune 19-22, Telluride Town ParkThe Aspen Music Festival has lodged public complaint against Jazz Aspen’s scheduling its June Festival in close proximity to the Music Fest’s tent and on the same days as the Music Festival’s opening weekend. I fail to see the problem: music fans can actually catch concerts at both venues, which to me seems like a treat.Now I’ve got a legitimate gripe: Why must the June Festival always be scheduled opposite the mighty Telluride Bluegrass Festival? Oh, why do you music gods mock me so? Traveling several hundred miles between festivals on the same weekend – now there’s a conflict.This year’s 30th Telluride Bluegrass boasts the usual obscene roster of talent: Vince Gill, String Cheese Incident, Nickel Creek, Hot Rize, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Bla Fleck & the Flecktones and much more.High Sierra Music FestivalJuly 3-6, Quincy, Calif.The High Sierra Music Festival, with a gorgeous setting in the Sierra Nevada, a lineup of top acts, and a history that dates back over a decade, has earned its reputation among festivarians. Coming to play this year are Steve Winwood, the John Scofield Band, the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Del McCoury Band and many more. The High Sierra folks also put on Berkfest (Aug. 15-17, Great Barrington, Mass., with the Greyboy Allstars, the Roots, Sound Tribe Sector 9), and the Blue Ridge Harvest Fest (Sept. 26-28, Lafayette, Ga., with moe., John Prine, Gillian Welch, Sam Bush).Sunlight Mountain Bluegrass FestivalJuly 4-6, near Glenwood SpringsSunlight Mountain Resort presents its first bluegrass festival, and the timing of a Fourth of July weekend could hardly be better. Headliners include the International Bluegrass Music Association guitarist of the year Jim Hurst, the Rounder label’s Open Road, Pig’s Eye Landing, and Bearfoot Bluegrass, winners of the 2001 Telluride band competition.KBCO’s World Class RockfestJuly 12-13, Winter ParkThe World Class Rockfest, an annual party thrown by Front Range radio station KBCO, changes location and music style regularly. This year’s lineup, presented at the Winter Park resort, does indeed earn the world-class designation. Day one features Bob Dylan, with young guitar ace Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sonia Dada and more. Day two has Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Goo Goo Dolls and the North Mississippi Allstars. LoDo Music FestivalJuly 18-19, DenverThe corner of 22nd and Larimer has become the locale for one of the better festivals in a downtown setting. This year’s LoDo Music Festival is typically diverse, with Dark Star Orchestra, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Blind Boys of Alabama and the Radiators on day one, followed by Joan Osborne, Steel Pulse, X and Camper Van Beethoven on day two.RockyGrassJuly 25-27, LyonsNow here’s a treat: the Del McCoury Band – the best bluegrass outfit in the world – joined by mandolin master David Grisman. That’s how day one of Rockygrass ends. For those who need more, the three-day festival also includes Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Old & In the Gray, Tim O’Brien, Mike Marshall & Chris Thile, and back-to-back separate sets on Saturday afternoon by the Del McCoury Band and the David Grisman Quintet.NedFestAug. 2-3, NederlandThe title of best small-town music scene in Colorado probably goes to Nederland, a hamlet outside of Boulder that a healthy dose of prominent players call home. NedFest has become a healthy, homegrown gathering; this year’s lineup includes Stanley Jordan, the Motet, Garaj Mahal and more.Crestone Music FestivalAug. 9-10, CrestoneThe Fifth Annual Crestone Music Festival, in the New Age capital of Colorado, features headliners Michelle Shocked and Tony Furtado, plus Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band and Taiko Drummers from Tokyo. Folks FestivalAug. 15-17, LyonsThe Folks Festival broadens its tent, allowing the likes of jazz-pop singer Norah Jones, jam-man Warren Haynes, Black Crows frontman Chris Robinson and rockers the Indigo Girls to join folkier acts Utah Phillips, Dar Williams and Greg Brown. Also on the bill is Aspenite Dan Sheridan, who earned a main-stage slot by winning last year’s songwriter competition.And hail as always to Mr. Haynes, the only man who could front multiple groups at a jam-band festival and play a solo set at a folk festival. Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day FestivalAug. 29-Sept. 1, Snowmass VillageThe rumor mill is abuzz, even though Jazz Aspen has yet to announce any acts for this year’s Labor Day party. If the rumors become reality, expect this year’s festival to eclipse last year’s landmark gathering, which included sets from Bob Dylan, Phil Lesh & Friends, Willie Nelson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Telluride Blues & Brews FestivalThe Telluride Blues & Brews Festival has joined Telluride Bluegrass as a very good reason for festivarians to head to Telluride’s Town Park. This year’s music 10th anniversary lineup includes Buddy Guy, the Allman Brothers Band, Charlie Musselwhite, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and lots more. Attendees can expect a healthy serving of brew with their blues; some 50 microbreweries will participate in the Grand Tasting on Saturday, Sept. 13.
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