2013 FirstGrass Concert

2011 Firstgrass (photo: Benko Photographics)
Festivarians at 2011 FirstGrass
(photo Benko Photographics)

For over a decade now Yonder Mountain String Band has officially "kicked-off" Telluride Bluegrass with their Wednesday night show at the Telluride Conference Center. Five years ago we decided that kick-off needed a kick-off of its own...

Join us in the inspiring location of Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village for this free outdoor show from 4-8pm on Wednesday, June 19 featuring Steep Canyon Rangers, Lake Street Dive and Rosco Bandana.

Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village

Sunset Plaza is located along Mountain Village Boulevard in the heart of it all – the Village Center. Well-located with easy access of the Chondola, Sunset Plaza is aptly named because of its west-facing orientation resulting in great sun exposure and amazing sunset views.

View from Mountain Village
Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village

Sunset Plaza is easily accessible by foot or gondola. Once in the Village Center, stroll through Heritage Plaza and Conference Center Plaza where many of the town’s shops and restaurants are located before following the cobblestone walkway to Sunset Plaza.

As always, the gondola from Telluride provides a breathtaking (and free) means of traveling to Mountain Village. Plan to spend the evening in Mountain Village - dining at one of the numerous great restaurants, wandering the shops, taking in the spectacular views, and enjoying the official first bluegrass of the 40th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

2013 FirstGrass Artists

Steep Canyon Rangers
The past year has taken the Steep Canyon Rangers to new heights. In March 2011, the band released its first collaborative record with Steve Martin, ”Rare Bird Alert” which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart and at #43 on the Billboard Top 200. In 2010, the latest solo record from Steep Canyon Rangers, ”Deep In The Shade”, remained in the Bluegrass Top 10 on Billboard for 18 weeks. While headlining festivals like MerleFest and Bonnaroo alongside Steve Martin for part each year, the Rangers continue to perform alone as a quintet on stages such as Telluride, RockyGrass, and ”A Prairie Home Companion ” [more...] with Garrison Keillor. Recent television appearances by Steve Martin with Steep Canyon Rangers include ”Late Night With David Letterman”, ”The Colbert Report” & ”Austin City Limits.” With smooth vocals, smart songwriting, ferocious instrumentals and jaw-dropping harmony, the Rangers are bringing Bluegrass to music lovers across the USA and around the world. Steep Canyon Rangers are:

Charles R. Humphrey III was born under the sign of Capricorn on Christmas Day 1976 in Greenville, North Carolina. He has been playing upright bass since middle school and also studied classically at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where the Steep Canyon Rangers was formed. Charles has released two side projects of original compositions, “Songs from the Road Band” and “Songs from the Road Band: As The Crow Flies.” Twice selected by the IBMA as a showcase songwriter, his songs have been recorded by the Steep Canyon Rangers, Steve Martin, Town Mountain, Mark Schimick, Jed Fisher, Sav Sankaran, The Canucky Bluegrass Boys, and Songs from the Road Band. He's proud to call Asheville, North Carolina home.

Originally from California, Nicky Sanders began training as a classical violinist at age 5. After serving as concertmaster of the Young People's Symphony Orchestra, he moved to Boston, MA to attend Berklee College of Music where he studied Jazz, Bluegrass and Composition. In 2004, Nicky moved to North Carolina to join Steep Canyon Rangers, first appearing on the album "One Dime at a Time" and three more records since. In 2010, the IBMA nominated the Rangers' recording of Nicky's fiddle tune "Mourning Dove" as Instrumental Performance of the Year. The song appears on the band's latest CD "Deep in the Shade". Nicky also enjoys solving New York Times crossword puzzles and drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Mike Guggino grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he learned to play piano, saxophone and guitar. He didn’t encounter bluegrass until college, though, when friends from Kentucky introduced him to the sounds of Hot Rize, the Seldom Scene, Tony Rice, New Grass Revival, and John Hartford. From there, he found his way to the music of Bill Monroe, and the mandolin, an instrument that also harkened back to his Italian great-grandparents. Mike immediately began to immerse himself in the bluegrass tradition and write original songs of his own. Over the past decade, his unique compositions have become signature Rangers tunes. Mike is proud to play Kimble mandolins and mandolas.

Graham Sharp began playing banjo in college and almost immediately fell into playing with Charles and Woody. Originally introduced to bluegrass by his high school Latin teacher, Graham was drawn to the sounds of John Hartford and Norman Blake. Through the years he has penned more than thirty Steep Canyon Rangers songs. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina and most enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, Wade and Rosalie.

Woody Platt‘s musical career began in the third grade, when he sang in the Brevard, North Carolina Boys Choir. He played trumpet and baritone in his middle school band, then became interested in bluegrass and guitar as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He, Charles Humphrey, and Graham Sharp started playing together as students, eventually forming the Rangers. Woody founded the Mountain Song Festival as a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County in 2006, and continues to co-produce it. He lives in Brevard, North Carolina with his wife, the singer and songwriter Shannon Whitworth, and spends much of his time off the road in a trout stream. [less...]
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Lake Street Dive
How is it that something so unlikely can also be so infectious, so naturally exhilarating? Pulling in familiar elements and irreverently scrambling and recombining them, Lake Street Dive are at once jazz-schooled, DIY-motivated, and classically pop obsessed. Beginning with catchy songs that are by turns openhearted and wryly inquisitive, this northeastern quartet proceeds to inject them with an irresistible blend of abandon and precision. Composed of drummer Mike Calabrese, bassist Bridget Kearney, vocalist Rachael Price, and trumpet-wielding guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, Lake Street Dive encompasses a myriad [more...] of possibilities within its members’ collective experiences, and the resultant music is a vivid, largely acoustic, groove-driven strain of indie-pop. “It seems the only limitation we have,” Kearney explains, “ is that we try to make music that we would like listening to.”

Hailing from such disparate locales as Tennessee (Price), Iowa (Kearney), Minneapolis (Olson), and Philadelphia (Calabrese), Lake Street Dive first gathered in a room together when they were students at Boston’s New England Conservatory. “Mr. McDuck assembled the four of us, said we were now Lake Street Dive, and we were a ‘free country’ band,” Bridget Kearney remembers. “He wrote this on a chalkboard in the ensemble room that we had our first rehearsal in. We intended to play country music in an improvised, avant-garde style – like Loretta Lynn meets Ornette Coleman. It sounded terrible!  But the combination of people and personalities actually made a lot of sense and we had a great time being around each other and making music together.”

Lake Street Dive makes the most of pop music virtues: solid, evocative song craft; propulsive grooves; and Price’s disarming, forthright vocals. However, it’s a personal strain of pop that is refracted through the band members’ rich backgrounds: a sinewy Motown bass line is reborn with woody heft on Kearney’s upright, Calabrese’s drumming mixes timekeeping with more adventurous jazz-inflected outbursts, McDuck’s nimble trumpet is an unexpectedly warm counterpoint to Price’s singing. It all makes for a sound with familiar roots, but with a slant that is entirely their own. Lake Street Dive’s eventual artistic breakthrough came not without struggle, and still surprises original instigator Mike “McDuck” Olson. “Now we’re a pop band, leaning very heavily on soul and rock, with hook-y writing, which I never expected,” he concludes. “If I could travel through time, I’d go back six years and play the new record for my younger self, just to assure him that the awkward, new-band phase doesn’t last forever.” [less...]
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Rosco Bandana
The Mississippi septet Rosco Bandana are the product of teenage rebellion and its consequences; of lost love, false starts and, above all, lasting friendship. They're what happens when a group of kids take a chance on a long shot and – against all odds – it pays off. There's also a Blur cover thrown in for good measure.The group began – spiritually, if not specifically – when principle songwriter Jason Sanford, at that time acting in open and active defiance to his strict Christian upbringing, wandered into a tobacco store in a Gulfport mall to buy smokes and struck up a conversation with the kid working behind [more...] the counter. "He was like this real cool, hip, indie sorta character," Sanford explains, "and he ended up turning me on to people like Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel. That's kind of how it all started." His parents were wary of encouraging their son's budding interest. "They wanted to keep me in this tiny bubble," Sanford explains.

"At the time, I was into metal," Pribyl says. "So I went to this open mic night, and Jason was playing this honky-tonk stuff. I remember thinking, 'What the hell is this?'" But the best friendships are built on compromise and the more Pribyl and Sanford started playing together, the more a specific sound started to emerge – one that blended a ragged bar-rock attitude of bands like Uncle Tupelo with a few mild nods toward the iconoclastic end of contemporary country, like Jamey Johnson. Their core in place, Pribyl and Sanford soon began looking to expand their lineup. "Jason started an open mic night at a wine bar," Pribyl said. "From there, we'd invite 10 or 15 people to come with us out to this abandoned house and we'd just jam. We sort of hand-picked the band from there." In the kind of romantic twist all great rock stories require, one of them was Jason's old flame Emily Sholes. Another was Jennifer Flint, whose fiery vocals serve as a scorching counterbalance to Sanford's down-home croon. "I first met Jason in 2006," says Flint. "He was in one of his first bands, and I honestly just fell in love with the way he wrote." Local attention inspired the band to enroll in a Battle of the Bands contest sponsored by Hard Rock, which they handily won, and they soon flew out to Los Angeles to work on their debut with acclaimed producer Greg Collins (U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt) at The Nook Studio.

The results are spellbinding. They turn Blur's "Tender" into a rousing, gospel-informed hymn, and work similar magic on their own compositions: "Time to Begin," the first song Sanford, Pribyl and Flint wrote together, hip-swivels like something off Exile on Main Street; the trembling, minor-key vocal melody of "El Luna" recalls both Elliott Smith and Abbey Road-era Beatles and "Woe is Me" is a rollicking country stomp in the vein of Steve Earle. "I was trying to write a real Depression Era-style country song," Sanford explains, "and so I tried to put myself in the mindset of what people back then were going through." Though it began as an attempt to channel the loose rootsiness of Old Crow Medicine Show, the result is a barnburner – a big, raucous number with a booming backbeat and deep-fried electric guitar. Whether loud and rowdy or quiet and contemplative, Rosco Bandana balance both extremes perfectly. "It might sound cliché," Pribyl says, "but we're just these humble, good ol', down-to-earth Mississippi people. And when we play live, you can just see in our faces the joy of music. " [less...]
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The FirstGrass Concert is completely free thanks to a partnership between Planet Bluegrass and the Town of Mountain Village.

Planet BluegrassTown of Mountain Village