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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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