TVD Live Shots: Telluride Bluegrass Festival, 6/20

TELLURIDE, CO | The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is a festival like no other and has been since its origin 46 years ago. Every June, people gather in one of the most stunning environments in all of the country to celebrate bluegrass and community. It’s a truly special experience and a festival that I’m already itching to return to.

9:56AM: The bagpipes are playing over the loudspeaker to signal that the running of the tarps will begin shorty. It’s a tradition unique to TBF—dedicated “Festivarians” line up outside the entrance the night before each day of the fest in order to ensure good line placement. In the morning the bagpipes play, the gates open, and people run as fast as they can to claim their little temporary plot of land. It’s a sight to see and always a fun way to begin the day. Staff and volunteers take a break from their work to watch the tarp run from the stage. There’s lots of laughter and cheers.

10:20AM: The merch tent line is already impressively long. Festivarians are a patient bunch.

11AM: The incredibly talented Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickle Creek), who I happened to catch walking to TBF this morning, kicks off the four days of music. We’re officially underway!

1:12PM: I’ve wandered over to Elks Park to listen to the first round of Troubadour competitors. The competition, which is open to songwriters not currently signed to a major recording or publishing deal, offers a platform for finalists as well as cash and prizes. The winner also gets the opportunity to perform on the festival main stage. I arrive just as Emily Scott Robinson is mid-song and I’m really impressed. (Turns out I’m not the only one—she ended up winning the competition!) It’s a serene and beautiful setting right in charming downtown Telluride.

2:01PM: I linger in Elks Park to check out the live vinyl pressing demo courtesy of Mobile Vinyl Recorders. Tim O’Brien sang a lovely song for the crowd, it was recorded live on vinyl and then played back for the crowd. Pretty cool stuff.

3:36PM: Back at the main stage, things are heating up. Fan favorites Leftover Salmon are covering Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.”

4:36PM: It’s a picture perfect day in Telluride and I take it all in. Some are dancing to Leftover Salmon, others are relaxing in chairs, laughing with friends. Children are playing, the mountain air is crisp, and the collective mood is joyful.

6:25PM: Gregory Alan Isakov writes beautiful songs. The crowd is enamored and I get why.

8:47PM: Well TBF46 wasted no time busting out the big names: night one featured this year’s rendition of the “Telluride House Band” and wow is it one hell of a supergroup! We’ve got “King of Telluride” Sam Bush on mandolin, Béla Fleck on banjo, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Jerry Douglas on the dobro, Edgar Meyer on standup bass, and Bryan Sutton on guitar. Talk about a group of musicians who can play!

9:18PM: The Telluride House Band has put together a nice cover of Flatt & Scruggs’ classic “Old Salty Dog Blues.” Despite their mastery of instruments and the precision with which they play them, the House Band’s whole set also feels incredibly laid-back. They’re cracking jokes with one another and appear to be really enjoying themselves. It’s nice to see.

10:34PM: Jim James is giving this fest a hearty dose of rock ‘n fucking roll. He’s straight up melting faces. I’d like to live inside his guitar solos.

11:06PM: I’m moved to tears during Jim James’ stripped down, acoustic version of “I’m Amazed” (a song written with his band, My Morning Jacket). His gorgeous voice floats and soars and the words resonate to the core. It’s an extraordinary conclusion to TBF46 day one.

CHRIS THILE

LEFTOVER SALMON

GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV

TELLURIDE HOUSE BAND

JIM JAMES

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL, THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 2019

THE TARP RUN

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