Telluride Blues and Brews | September 16-18, 2016

‘Cause the Rocky Mountain Way/Is better than the way we had

Another amazing autumn weekend in Telluride is down on the books and Joe Walsh’s lyrics couldn’t be more fitting! We were surrounded in the majestic San Juan valley by steep forested mountains and cliffs, while heavy hitters like Gary Clark Jr., Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, and Walsh himself rocked the box canyon into submission. This was our third year in a row covering this beautiful festival and it just keeps getting better and better. This multi-day jamboree turned 23 this year and the founder of Telluride Blues and Brews, Steve Gumble, put together an incredible lineup for us all to enjoy. 

A little history on the festival, back in ’94 Gumble started what was then called the Telluride Brewers Festival. He stated,”We wanted to do something that complemented beer tasting. Music made the most sense at the time.”  Bluegrass Fest was already an established event, so he decided to focus on the blues. The Funky Meters were the first big act Gumble booked for the 1997 newly named Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. After that, calling in bigger names to come play in Telluride wasn't too much of a struggle. 

We were looking forward to a lot of things on this trip, but were really excited to check out the two million dollar renovation and all the new upgrades to the stage in Telluride’s Town Park. They reused some of the original 1975 wood siding, and also included the addition of speaker towers which made the whole auditory experience unbelievable and eliminated the need for sketchy scaffolding. The new stage design incorporates all the necessary current performance venue standards, while keeping the character of the original. It by far exceeded our expectations and was simply beautiful.

Even a 300 mile drive and being up for over 24 hours couldn’t keep our spirits down! We rolled into town around 10 AM and found the perfect spot in the campground for our home away from home. It was quiet, so wonderfully quiet. It was a satisfying break from the constant noise pollution humping our earholes on a day to day basis back in Denver. After sneaking in a well-deserved nap with the local forest creatures (we woke up to a chipmunk on our sleeping bag), we got moving and stopped by the annual media party at the quaint Arroyo Wine Bar.  They treated us with sushi, complimentary libations, and an intimate performance by AJ Fullerton. We mingled with the media folk for a while and then made our way down the road to the Sheridan Opera House where Madison Ward and the Mama Bear were kicking off the festival weekend. 

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Friday

Friday’s lineup was Stacked! Con Brio opened up the main stage with a BANG! His electric performance shocked the crowd and was drawing in the masses throughout his set. He has been respectfully compared to James Brown and we even heard festival goers mentioning comparisons to Micheal Jackson and Bruno Mars. Make sure to check out their latest album called Paradise on Spotify now!

Another great moment was when Israel Nash took the stage. These guys from Texas put on a fantastic show with their unique way of mixing americana, country, and psychedelic rock all into one epic performance. They even had The Bright Light Social Hour’s own Jack Obrien filing in on base guitar which was a pleasant surprise. After chatting with the band back stage, it sounded like the two bands recently got together and collaborated on a new EP thats scheduled to come out this November.

The long awaited and heavily anticipated Shakey Graves jumped on stage after Israel with a joint in his mouth and that playful Austin swagger we all know and love. His comedic interaction with the crowd kept everyone laughing and grooving throughout his performance as always. Later on that night he would also perform to a packed house at the Blues Stage for an afterparty Juke Joint session where he proceeded to “free the nipple” due to popular demand.  

Joe Walsh, better known as “Average Joe”, closed out day one with a very entertaining and high camp performance. He played such perfect tunes as “Walk Away”, “Life’s Been Good”, “Analog Man”, “Life in the Fast Lane”, and of course “Rocky Mountain Way” with help from Jason Isbell underneath the Harvest Moon. His playful attitude and easy to relate to lyrics hides the fact that he is a five time Grammy Award winner, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and even ran for president once…..too bad he’s not running in THIS election!

Saturday

Saturday’s Grand Tasting might have been our favorite part of the weekend. We ran into so many familiar faces and even met a few new friends. So many beers to sample from and only three hours to get in as many as you can. There is also a voting system put in place for festival goers to text in their votes for their favorite beer. This years “Best of Fest” winner was Avalanche Brewing Company coming out of Silverton Colorado. Glasses up boys! Cheers to a job well done!

After the Grand Tasting came to a close we needed some food, so we stopped by Mama P’s Place where our good friend Josh Klein was serving up his famous Three Cheese Blackened Crawfish Mac’N Cheese! Josh has been doing quite well for himself in recent years. He is now the owner and brewmaster at Smugglers Brewpub. Make sure to stop in the next time you're in Telluride and enjoy some of the best pub food in town.

North Mississippi Allstars were another jaw dropping surprise, with their raw talent and country blues sound similar to the likes of R.L Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson from Mississippi were a perfect fit to rock out on the main stage.

Blues and Brews veteran Anders Osborne put on a incredible show as always with hard hitting, riff rocking songs off his new album Flower Box that was released this past July. He also teamed up with North Mississippi Allstars later that night for the Juke Joint afterparty on the Blues Stage.

The stage was set and the lights were dim as Gary Clark Jr. slowly walked up to the microphone playing an all but too familiar blues riff “Bright Lights”. His calmness and composure on stage was picture perfect to his image. He knows how good he is and came to let everyone know it. This performance was a little more on the softer side compared to the last time we saw him at Red Rocks, but nonetheless it showcased his true talent behind the guitar. He was accurate and precise with every note. This performance will definitely be one we remember and cherish for a LONG time.

Sunday

Day 3 and the hangover was starting set in. The festival has also introduced some comedy acts into the mix if you need a break from the music and enjoy a good laugh. This year we caught Denver’s own Troy Walker and Comedy Central’s Sarah Tiana. We’re still laughing about Tiana’s Aretha Franklin skit

Back to the main stage we went as Vintage Trouble was about to come on. We had heard a few songs by these guys, but there was no way we were prepared for the amount of energy this band was about to unleash. We were given the “OK” to join them on stage during the beginning of their performance. The confidence and engaging attitude lead vocalist Ty Taylor brought to the stage was unmatched all weekend. During their song “Run Like The River” Taylor jumped down into the crowd and made his way about half way to the sound board. He was then lifted up by the crowd standing up right and then jumped onto the sea of people where they carried him back to the stage. The last time we saw anything remotely similar to this was when Buddy Guy walked out into the crowd two years ago playing his guitar. What a show!

Mick Fleetwood Blues Band was a fitting end to the blues filled weekend. With guitarist and lead vocalist Rick Vito showing off his steez as a confident front man who was incredibly photogenic. Mick Fleetwood hung back keeping the beat during most of their performance until that moment when he moved his drum set up front, dismissed the band members, and showcased a commanding drum solo that rumbled the valley all the way to the mountain tops.

This festival will always have a special place in our heart. We’re already looking forward to next year and can’t wait to hear who will be on the lineup. We wanted to thank all the people running this festival at SBG Productions as well as Steve Gumble for always taking great care of us. So long for now and we’ll see you again next September!!

Written by Andrew Rios and Kellie Affolder

Vertex Festival | Buena Vista | August 5-7, 2015

Brace yourself for a whole lot of FOMO: True to it’s namesake, the first annual(?) Vertex Festival epitomized the term’s definition of “a coming together” by melding a unique community of people with music and camping – a true celebration of all the things we love most about summer. Hosted at the Meadows Farm located within the awe-inspiring Arkansas River Valley, the Vertex website shares the story of former professional kayaker and developer Jed Selby, who bought the 274-acre Cottonwood Meadows Ranch in foreclosure in 2014 with aspirations of developing an annual festival in the open meadow. With major names like Madison House Presents and AEG Live Rocky Mountains on board as co-producers, that dream became a reality this past weekend.

After a stunning 3hr drive southwest from the metro Denver area, we were warmly welcomed by the striking panoramic views of Buena Vista. Although car searches for glass, knives, explosives, and Indian headdresses (luckily we left ours at home) did cause a little bit of a wait, it was nothing absurd, and we were the very first ones in line to enter the festival grounds on Friday morning. Finding our campsite was easy, and the lot sizes gave us plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the scenery.

There were plenty of bathrooms, water stations, showers, and a general store inside the campground that provided all the comforts of home. The festival even had a fully equipped beach known as the BeeVee Beach Club. It had chairs and umbrellas to sun-bathe in, funky on-duty life guards, and hosted a “beach party” every day from 11am-4pm.

Once we got settled and celebrated our arrival with a few libations, it was time to explore the festival grounds. We quickly spotted a favorite local vendor, Shakedown Street, was selling everything from Disco Biscuits dog tags to “Dope on a Rope” Soap amongst others selling their wares within the festival. We grabbed some fried avocado and pork nachos from Nacho Tacos and headed inside.

Immediately inside the gate was the “Creekside Bazaar,” which was bizarre indeed. There was a balloon house, chill zones, and cool little art installations including gnome homes and little keep sakes to take with you throughout the festival weekend. The smaller side stage, La Hacienda, was housed here and provided repose from the heavy bass and large crowds that were to come. To reach the two main stages, Cottonwood Parlor and Princeton Garden, we crossed “over the river and through the woods” to Long Meadow. In the middle of the meadow sat a giant shade tent that was serving local brews from Colorado’s own Oskar Blues amidst the scenic views and soaring tunes.

Perhaps our favorite part of this setting was “Robot Resurrection.” Created by artist Shane Evans, it was a 28ft tall, human-controlled, fire-shooting sculpture made from 95% airplane parts. Robot Resurrection symbolized what humans have become: lifeless metal robots. The artist’s hope was that the installation would inspire reflection upon oneself and be a reminder of the power we hold. Artist Evans statement about the piece was “we need to be reborn to resurrect and create our own system.” A very appropriate message for all that Vertex is aiming to represent with their dynamic new take on festival scene.

Rather than boring you with a vague or overly extensive review of all the performances from Vertex, we’ve chosen to highlight our top 6 sets from the weekend. The festival’s lineup was as eclectic and diverse as the fans in attendance, something that we greatly appreciated. While smaller sets from artists like local Jaden Carlson, Houndmouth, Trout Steak Revival, and Robert Delong were certainly impressive, these top 6 (in no particular order) still take the cake.

Top Performances

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Anderson .Paak has been taking over the music scene by force! His latest album Malibu was released in January and shortly afterwards he was signed to Dr. Dre’s record label, Aftermath Entertainment. He was also featured not once, not twice, but eight times on Dr. Dre’s critically acclaimed album Compton. The Paak-man took us away on a journey with straight-from-the-street intellectual poetry then pounded his way through our souls courtesy of his skills behind the drumkit.

Alabama Shakes

Brittany Howard is one of those people who radiates passion as soon as she steps on stage. Her songs include stories of love, struggle, wonder and bliss paired with her soulful guitar riffs that shake your bones to the core. The groups latest album, Sound In Color, is an album we feel will surely will go down in history. When Howard gets to singing “Give Me All Your Love," you really feel the hunger and desires in the lyrics.

Lettuce

As the only Funk band gracing the Vertex lineup, we had to include Lettuce. We’ve loved this band for a few years now, and for good reason: their sound mixes the essence of funk with psychedelic, bass heavy hip-hop thats sure to get your hips moving. Their stage posse during the festival included Nigel Hall, adding keyboards and southern funky vocals to the mix as they played crowd favorites like “Phyllis” and “Do It Like You do”.

Odesza

Electronic music duo Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight sure have come a long way since we last saw them at SXSW in 2014. Two years ago they had fold out tables with black linens, and a minimal, lacking production when they crushed the IFC stage following Robert Delong. These days its a completely different story! They straight up stole the show with their elevated live beat performance paired with members of the Colorado Symphony and the University of Colorado Drumline energetically bouncing around on stage during songs like “Say My Name” and “IPlayYouListen."

Trey Anastasio Band

Phish frontman Trey Anastasio brought out his band for two unforgettable sets on the last night of the festival. A highlight was father-daughter duo Jeff and Natalie Cressman's performance. Jeff, a longstanding member of Santana’s horn section, alongside daughter Natalie, dominated a cover of Ana Tijoux’s “1977” known best from the TV series Breaking Bad. Cyro Baptista kept the beat via his intricate drum set and an old fashioned washboard as multitalented Jen Hartswick’s powerful voice echoed throughout the meadow during covers of  “Clint Eastwood” and “Dazed and Confused”.

The Show-Stopper: The Claypool Lennon Delirium

This duo put on a mind-bending performance. If Primus hadn’t gone on hiatus in 2016, or if Oysterhead had toured we may have never seen these two dynamic artists come together. This set was easily our favorite of the entire festival. After Lennon's band, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger opened up for Primus, Claypool approached Lennon about doing a recording project and “next thing I know, he’s staying in my guesthouse, drinking my vino and banging on my drums."  Their ‘shroom and wine fueled time together produced the new psychedelic space-rock album Monolith of Phobos. Sean’s melodic/heavy mind-expanding style and Les’ distinctive punk-progressive/hard hitting funky bass is certainly a peculiar and other worldly collaboration; we love it. Our favorite songs from the set were “Cricket and the Genie”, “Mr. Wright”, and an absolutely magnificent cover of “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson. These two have a celestial existence on stage that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. We even spotted Trey Anastasio watching respectfully side stage.

We feel that Vertex was a huge success considering this was their first go here in the Rockies. They may not have received the turn out they were hoping for, but we're certain we're not the only ones raving after our weekend on Cottonwood Meadows Ranch. We've seen some amazing festivals come and go over the years here in Colorado, but we genuinely hope to see Vertex continue to generate the organic growth they’re looking for to keep this unique festival alive. We see big things in Vertex’s future, and we're beyond thankful to have been a part of (hopefully) many more festivals to come in the beautiful meadows of Buena Vista. Cheers, Vertex! We cannot wait for next year!

Written by Andrew Rios and Kellie Affolder

Bass Center | Porter Robinson | Wu-Tang Clan | Dicks Sporting Goods Park | July 29-30, 2015

Tisk, tisk, Bassnectar. You threw a raging party for your friends while the parents were out of town, and got yourself another noise complaint. Last year the globally renowned DJ was more or less kicked you out of Morrison (read: Red Rocks) due to continual noise violations, and now Commerce City – the neighbors down the street – are saying last weekend’s “house party” felt like a seismic event. It seems that things are not getting easier for the artist despite the new venue, but as the Beastie Boys once said, “You’ve got to fight…for the right…to PAAAAR-TAY!”

July 29th and 30th, Lorin Ashton (known more commonly as Bassnectar) hosted his biggest event to date at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, with attendance over 25,000. The DJ and producer from Santa Cruz had never put on a festival of this caliber, but thanks to the impressive turnout and stellar lineup, we’re sure to see Bass Center return to Denver next year. The event was a unique two day experience featuring two camping villages, food trucks, and extended sets from Bassnectar himself, the weekend lineup also features heavy-hitters Wu-Tang Clan, Flux Pavilion Lupe Fiasco, Porter Robinson, Flying Lotus, AlunaGeorge amongst others.

We arrived on Saturday evening just as Porter Robinson was getting on stage. His set was backlit by different scenes from anime shows, creating a trance-pop vibe that made you feel like you were rising to the skies – only to be dropped down into a crazy real life version of “Dance Dance Revolution.” This American DJ has been making quite a stir in the electronic scene with multiple hits on the Billboard charts since 2010. His album Worlds, released in 2014, is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of electro-house and synth-pop. 

The vibe flipped 180 degrees once Wu-Tang took over the stage. All members except Raekwon and Method Man were in attendance, bringing the audience back to the 90’s by playing songs like “C.R.E.A.M.” and their Beatles vs. Wu-Tang mashup “Release Yo Delf.” They took time to pay their respects to fallen artists by rapping parts of “California Love” by Tupac, singing bits of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as an ode to Kurt Cobain, and finally their friend and former member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, by singing “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” The energy and crowd participation during those songs was absolutely incredible! Oh baby, we like it RAW!

Despite the festival’s massive lineup, the headliner was still absolutely the focus of attention. The roar from the crowd as Bassnectar walked on stage was mind boggling. Hearing that many people screaming that loud all at once is something we’ll never forget. Then the bass hit us hard as he opened up with the song “TKO” off his new album Unlimited, the venue rumbling as the words “Hit’m with the heavyweight - make, make the room shake!” poured from the 808’s.

There’s something about a Bassnectar performance that you just don't experience at any other show. The bass tones he produces are so much lower and deeper than anything else; It rattles your innards to the point where your heart almost skips a beat. This bass is so low that neighboring residents living almost four miles away reported that they could hear the music from inside their houses, and that their walls and windows were shaking throughout the night. Talk about being entirely next-level loud! Saturday night’s performance included mashups from a variety of artists like Jimi Hendrix, Missy Elliot, The Weeknd, and Bruno Mars. He even busted out some crazy pyrotechnics with huge flame throwers shooting out atop of the stage as well as right in front between him and the crowd. The end of the night featured the tune of The Doors song “The End”, and was accompanied by fireworks. From beginning to end, Bass Center 2016 was a truly a magical experience. As long as the neighbors don’t complain too much, we can’t wait to see what the notorious bass god has in store for us next year.

Written by Andrew Rios and Kellie Affolder