‘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’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’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.
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