Telluride Blues & Brews Festival | September 12 - 15 | Telluride, CO

Although it took us driving through an apocalyptic storm, the trip to the 20th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival was well worth the anxiety. Nothing a little Xanax couldn’t cure; my nerves were at ease. We made it bright and early on Friday and had the sunshine tease us while we set up our campsite. For a second, I may have broken a sweat. We learned from last year’s adventure to plan for every season and so I packed: Hunter boots, a zero degree jacket and sleeping bag, skirts to twirl in, and a rain jacket. It rained just about every other hour while we were there. It would rain, never too hard, and then the sun would peak it’s rays out and dry our skin just enough to forget.

20th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

20th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

I was excited to see the raspy gypsy queen, ZZ Ward. She was the first act that I caught and I was, of course, impressed. She had great energy and presence and man, that girl has style. She was channeling a young Stevie Nicks in her over-sized coat and floppy hat. There were definitely festy-trends throughout the weekend which caught my eye. Denim pearl snap shirts, various boot styles, layers, ponchos, and aztec patterns. You definitely knew you were in southern Colorado at a festival. Even Allen Stone really honed in on the trend in his fringe vest. He was vibrant and a great compliment to ZZ Ward and though he experienced some technical snafus halfway through his set, his band backed him up and I would never have known had I not been in the photo pit.

ZZ Ward Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

ZZ Ward

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Allen Stone Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Allen Stone

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Friday's music continued with Gary Clark Jr. who was soulful with smooth vocals. The weather was beginning to change and Gary's bluesy tunes carried us into the night as the temperature began to drop - just a bit. He played his well-known songs like, "Right Now" and "I Don't Owe You a Thang" which had the mountain folks dancing.

Gary Clark Jr. Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Gary Clark Jr.

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

There's something about being in Telluride surrounded by green, lush mountains with massive spires jutting out while listening to live music. The San Juan Mountains are breath-taking; from the streets of Telluride you can see a massive waterfall nestled between two peaks. It's as if it makes the music sound that much sweeter.

20th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival

20th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival

The Black Crowes closed out Friday night and while it rained a bit during Gary Clark Jr.'s set, the sky cleared up just in time. Chris Robinson was able to light up the stage for all in attendance. His unusual dance moves added an entertaining element to the night with all of his twirling and Jagger-esque moves.

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

If it weren't for the Grand Beer Tasting on Saturday afternoon, the crowd's spirits may have been a bit down considering the amount of rain we received that afternoon. We weren't phased, though. With over 50 microbreweries and over 200 beer selections, the festy-goers had beer in their belly's and music on their mind. I discovered a coconut Porter from Horsefly that I can't stop dreaming about. The New Mastersounds were great drinking music for the beer tasting. Their quick, upbeat tunes kept the chugging pace at an all time high. Guitarist Eddie Roberts took a seat through the set due to a broken foot but he didn't let that slow him down one bit.

Rebirth Brass Band closed out the Grand Beer Tasting followed by a later afternoon set from the Mickey Hart Band, drummer for the Grateful Dead. Playing a solid mix of both Mickey Hart material and classic Grateful Dead, they had us twirling in the rain with songs like "Bertha", "China Cat Sunflower", "I Know You Rider" and "Fire on the Mountain".

And then, Jim James. I overheard someone say that perhaps they hadn't done enough mild-altering drugs to get it. The set was dark and mysterious and while it rained quite a bit, it added a special element to the evening. He opened the set with "State of the Art (A.E.I.OU.)" and swiveled around the stage with his crazy hair in his purple suit. Things would slow down at times and then he'd pick up a guitar and just rip shit. There was a time and a place and a rainy Saturday night in Telluride, was the time and the place.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

Jim James of My Morning Jacket

Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos

The Denver weather and the potential to return home to a flooded basement, caused us to leave on Sunday. It rained early Sunday morning and cleared up for a fantastic last day. Anders Osborne and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe gave folks something to look forward to on their last day. I've seen both in the past, though I was still bummed I missed them.

Telluride Blues and Brews Festival is something I will continue to attend. The scenery, the people, the music, the food, and the beer will keep me coming back

19th Annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival

A weekend full of perfect weather, delicious beer, iconic artists, and a scenery that can only be appreciated in person, this was the The 19th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. If you haven’t had the opportunity to make it to the festival, I strongly encourage you to do so, however, make sure you are prepared for both warm weather and cold. We thought we were coming well-prepared for the cooler temperatures, but with not a cloud in the sky, I ended up with a bit of a sunburn in 70 degrees. Be sure to bring shorts and tank tops (and sunscreen) for the day but the second that sun passes behind the mountains, be sure you have brought long johns, a winter jacket, and close-toed shoes. Also, a wagon is a must for hauling your camping gear to your campsite, this will save you five trips. And above anything, a bike is a necessity, and not just a road bike. The festival lies at the end of the town and while it isn’t a long walk, you are able to see more and get around more quickly on a bike. Around the campsite and festival grounds, it is unpaved so I would suggest a mountain bike. And that is my rant.

The crowd enjoying the 19th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival (Photo credit: Amanda Spilos)

And now, the meat and potatoes of the weekend. A number of factors make this festival what it is and sets the standard of quality. When camping, you must park in overnight parking which led us to the top of Mountain Village. This sounded like an inconvenience at first, but we parked at the gondola and took it straight into the heart of Telluride, enjoying three miles and thirteen minutes of scenic Colorado. Walking back to our campsite we noticed lines of folks with their lawn chairs, tarps, and coolers waiting for hours. Perplexed, and wondering if we should be doing the same, I asked what was going on. It is called “The Running of the Tarps”; attendees start lining up hours before the festival grounds open in hopes to lay their tarp and snag the best spot for the entire day. Some huge names ranging from Robert Randolph, The B-52s, Phil Lesh, Gov’t Mule, and so on graced one stage throughout the day. This is something that I enjoyed of a smaller festival, music does not overlap. I’ve paid the $300.00 Bonnaroo ticket and had to compromise my time, splitting it between acts, this was not the case this weekend. The music was prompt and started on schedule. Yes, you heard that correctly. Top-notch artists understand why you travelled long and far, they didn’t pull a Kanye.

Robert Randolph (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Friday’s lineup included Robert Randolph, Little Feat, and the B-52s among others (full lineup listed below). Robert Randolph with his giant grin, was great for a day show. The crowd was dancing and taking it all in on that first day. The B-52s were.. interesting. I didn’t know what to think but all I knew was that I had to stick around to hear “Love Shack”, you could tell they were less than enthused to play it for the billionth time. However, the costume contest was something for conversation.

The B-52s (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Saturday was my favorite day, not just because of the Grand Tasting with over fifty Microbrews, but also for the talented music from Monophonics, Orgone, Anders Osborne, and Gov’t Mule. Warren Haynes is the man! Back to the beer tasting for just a minute; the Saturday crowd had three hours to try ninety-six different beers from microbreweries all over the country. The winner for the third year in a row, and my favorite, was Eddyline Brewery from Buena Vista, CO. Later that evening, after a little afternoon nap, we attended a late night show with The Lee Boys from Miami. Although it was bitter cold, they had the small crowd dancing so much you were peeling off layers. 

Beer tasting (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Eddyline Brewery: Winning brewery for the third year in a row (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Warren Haynes (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Sunday we took it easy. I made pancakes and bacon, we cruised the town, and we packed up the car. We wanted to beat the rush Monday morning (which was the best idea we had all weekend) and camped just outside of Telluride in a National Forest. Sunday brought acts like The Lee Boys (again), Kelley Hunt, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and Phil Lesh & Friends: Warren Haynes, Grahame Lesh (son), Brian Lesh (son), Tony Leone, and Jeff Chimenti (from Furthur). Phil’s set spanned from 6 pm until 10 pm; festival-goers certainly got their money’s worth with that show, packed full of Grateful Dead tunes. 

Chris Robinson (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Phil Lesh and Friends (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

In all, the festival was amazing and friendly for all ages. There was plenty to do outside of the festival and plenty to eat if you grew sick of camp food (I would recommend the dumplings from Sisters’ Pantry, if you’re nice she will throw in an extra dumpling or wonton). It was a beautiful weekend and I will certainly be back next year. To see more photos from the weekend, click here.

Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead (Photo Credit: Amanda Spilos)

Amanda

Friday, September 14: Pickwick | Little Hurricane | Heartless Bastards | Robert Randolph & the Family Band | Little Feat | The B-52s

Saturday, September 15: Grand Tasting with over 50 Microbrews | Monophonics | Orgone | MarchFourth MArching Band | Anders Osborne | Acoustic Blues Competition Winner | Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue | Gov’t Mule

Sunday, September 16: The Lee Boys | Kelley Hunt | Phil Wiggins & Rev. John Wilkins | Tab Benoit | The Chris Robinson Brotherhood | Phil Lesh & Friends

South By Southwest Festival Recap

Every year in March the masses migrate to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest. Industry execs, musicians, and bloggers all congregate to the eclectic city for four days of non-stop music. It is the only place you can find your stereotypical hipster enjoying a Shiner Bock right next to a CEO of a major record label. I consider myself a veteran of the SXSW circuit now, so I am always prepared for the what goes down, I have gotten used to walking around town from venue to venue briefly stopping to eat bland pizza by the slice on Sixth Street (although I did try Stony’s this year and was pretty satisfied). This year was one of the most productive, as I was able to catch more bands than in years past. This year seemed more chaotic; it seems that this festival continues to grow and grow every year with the number of corporate sponsorships exploding at an unparalleled pace. It still, however, will be my favorite festival and this year received my stamp of approval.

South By Southwest is always about trying to discover that hidden gem, but it is also about watching established artist and bands in a more intimate setting than we are used to. The whole ecosystem of South By Southwest is interesting. One can say if you play your cards right and effectively manage your schedule, you can manage to catch your favorite artist one way or another. I always make a list of 4-5 “must-sees” every year, and since these artist play 4 or 5 times during the festival, chances are you will probably get to see them at some point. Word to the wise if your artist is playing a 3 o’clock set and are considered “buzz”, arrive at noon, trust me you don’t want to be waiting in the hot sun with others hoping you will get in.

One of the bands on my radar this year was Grimes. The Canadian duo has been creating an online buzz recently so I wanted to see how that translated to live sound.  The venue was at The Google Play Lot, which also included a line up of Jimmy Cliff, Talib Kweli, and The Shins; not a bad way to spend my afternoon. Grimes reminds me of a throwback synth sound that I grew up to listening to with bands such as New Order, Aphex Twin, and newer artist like Crystal Castles. In fact it is as if Sleigh Bells took a muscle relaxer and turned the amps down six notches to create the Grimes sound. The performance left me a little bit disappointed as it seemed like singer Claire Boucher was having vocal problems, making sure the audience knew about it. It got to the point where I was looking forward to the next act on the bill: the legendary Jimmy Cliff. 


Another band I was looking forward to seeing was Fun. Currently sitting atop the iTunes charts with their number one single “We Are Young”, they remind me a lot of what Vampire Weekend was a few years ago at SXSW, the band everybody was eager to catch. Fun is a project by former members of bands The Format, Anathallo and Steel Train. They played a short acoustic set at the Time Warner Sound Showcase presented by NIkon. I was very impressed with their performance as was the limited capacity crowd who got to witness them in a small intimate venue.

I can go on and write about all 48 bands that I saw but will give you a small run down of the hits and misses.

Bands I considered worthy:
The Drums, Fun., The Shins (new stuff will blow you away), Of Monsters and Men, Guards, Dives, Mr. MFNEsquire (this year’s Odd Future), The Roots, Air Dubai, Politics

Bands who I considered un-worthy:
Grimes (too much complaining), SBTRKT (not enough energy), Wiz Khalifa (we all thought you were going to rap, yet you didn’t), Dragonette (meh), Neon Trees (can you say sellout)

Band I wish I would have seen:
Cults, The Oh-Sees, Youth Lagoon, Radiation City, Fiona Apple. Alabama Shakes.

Stay tuned for followed posts about performance highlights and more photos!

Castro

 

 

Air Dubai at SXSW: Review

In all my years that I have attended SXSW, I have never seen a stronger contingent of Colorado bands representing. This year brought some of the best that our state has to offer. With a couple of Colorado based showcases, it was easy to catch some of the bands we are accustomed to seeing back home. One band in particular was the guys from Air Dubai, I was anxious to see the reaction from the crowd in Austin for their performance since I know what they are capable of. One of their first stops, (in fact it was their second show that day), was at The Blind Pig, this venue sits interestingly on a patio facing the famous Sixth Street in Austin. I was able to arrive early and meet some other Denver folks including members of My Body Sings Electric, The Epiloques, In The Whale, Mr. Right, and others. The band had one of those performances that I will rant about for days. It was full of hype, energy, and passion, having strangers ask me who these talented musicians were. I have never seen the band do an encore, but the crowd ate up the Dubai vibe so they chanted for more. Aside from the encore, one lucky lady was serenaded for her birthday, something she’ll never forget.  I didn’t get a chance to see the rest of Air Dubai’s shows, but I am sure they left the same impression on Texas as they did this night. Well done guys, well done.  

Castro