2015 FirstGrass Concert

Festivarians at FirstGrass (photo Benko Photographics)
Festivarians at 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. Seven years ago we decided that kick-off needed a kick-off of its own...

On Wednesday, June 17 we invite you to board the free gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village for this free outdoor show in the inspiring Sunset Plaza. From 5-8pm, we're excited to present full sets from string-infused quintet Fruition followed by Grammy-winner Rhiannon Giddens and her band. What better way to begin your Telluride Bluegrass than with this cherished Festivarian tradition in Mountain Village.

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.

Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village (photo Benko Photographics)
Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village
(photo Benko Photographics)

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 42nd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

2015 FirstGrass Artists

Rhiannon Giddens
It was near the close of the first half of the T Bone Burnett–curated, September 2013 "Another Day, Another Time" concert at New York City's Town Hall—a celebration of the early '60s folk revival that had inspired the Coen brothers' film Inside Llewyn Davis—when an extraordinary star-is-born moment occurred and singer Rhiannon Giddens, best known as a member of the Grammy–winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, indisputably stole the show. Performing Odetta's "Water Boy" with, as the New York Times later put it, "the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a folk holler, and the sultry insinuation of the blues," Giddens brought the celebrity-studded audience to its feet. [more...]

She followed that up with an amazing, tongue-twisting medley in Gaelic that garnered a second standing ovation. Giddens was the talk of the lobby during intermission and at the exclusive party afterwards. "Who on Earth was that," people excitedly said to each other, "and where can we go to hear more?" Backstage, the savvy Burnett already knew the answer and was immediately moved to ask if he could produce a record with her. The stunning result of their collaboration, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which deftly incorporates folk, jazz, gospel and the blues, will be Giddens' solo debut record in early 2015.

"It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that includes Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters, Rosetta Tharp, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, and Nina Simone," Burnett says. "We need that person in our culture. She is, in fact, that person in our culture."

Giddens' buzz-generating Town Hall performance has luckily been preserved in a double-disc live recording, to be released on Nonesuch Records (also in early 2015) and in a documentary that aired on Showtime last winter.

A mere two days after that star turn, Giddens was impressing the cast and crew on the set of Showtime's Nurse Jackie, playing a Brooklyn square-dance caller in a scene that would be among the most memorable of the last season. The role harkened back to Giddens' own entry into the world of old-time music.

Enrolled at Oberlin Conservatory, studying opera, Giddens began to do contra-dance calling on the weekends. At first a playful musical detour, it prefigured the unique course her career would take.

Reviving, interpreting, and recasting traditional material from a variety of sources has been central to Giddens' career, especially in her groundbreaking work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops (CCDs), who also routinely bring sold-out concert audiences to their feet. With their two Nonesuch albums, Genuine Negro Jig (2010, Grammy winner) and Leaving Eden (2012) the CCDs have shared the role African-American performers and songwriters played in U.S. folk-music history, while making recordings that are vital, contemporary, and exuberant.

Iconic choreographer Twyla Tharp was so entranced by their work that she created Cornbread Duet, a dance piece set to a suite of songs by Carolina Chocolate Drops that had its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Giddens' journey, in a larger sense, began in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, where she was raised—an area with a rich legacy of old-time music, black and white, that Giddens would explore in depth after college. She met her original CCDs band-mates at 2005's Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC, and got schooled in the Piedmont's traditional music by Joe Thompson, an elderly African-American fiddle player who passed on to Giddens and her cohorts many of the songs that would comprise their early repertoire.

Giddens is an American original—an artist with an unforgettable voice who culls the music of our collective past to point the way to the future, one in which her name will surely be well-known from the moment she steps on a stage. [less...]
Sharing a common love of music and life on the road, Fruition were originally brought together by the lure of adventure. For the last six years, the Portland, Ore. string infused quintet has racked up the miles playing sold out shows in their adopted hometown and garnering new fans across the country. Fruition released Just One of Them Nights in 2013 and it's an album that finds the band tackling the many struggles and successes that come along with living a vagabond lifestyle and the search for artistic clarity. Fruition have become arduous road warriors traveling the country and showcasing their adventures and experiences through song. [more...]

In 2011, Fruition recorded the EP It Won't Be Long. Soon after, the group's three prominent songwriters, Jay Cobb Anderson, Kellen Asebroek and Mimi Naja, discovered they had penned over forty tunes. The band knew it was time for the next level of their journey – to create a top-notch album recorded in a professional recording studio and capturing their foot-stomping, high-energy string-infused songs. The only hitch… where was a nomadic group of independent musicians going to find the funds to create this high caliber album? The answer came in the form of a successful Kickstarter campaign in which Fruition surpassed their goal of $20,000 through the help of diehard fans, friends, and family.

Though Just One of Them Nights captures a breadth of musical styles, it debuted at #11 on Soundscan's Bluegrass chart. The album was recorded at Old School Studios in Casper, CA on Highway 1 and features eleven original songs. The first single from the album, "Mountain Annie," has become an Americana classic and garnered steady airplay at SiriusXM's JamOn. The song's steady gait and memorable melody hook audiences on first listen while Jay Cobb's lyrics address longing for a lover who is no longer present. On Kellen's "Blue Light," the band ventures into electric Rock 'n Roll territory and quickly transitions into a traditional country rhythm without missing a beat. "Blue Light" features exuberant solos from Jay on guitar and Mimi on mandolin offering fans a taste of what's in store for fans at the band's live shows. "The Wanter," penned by Mimi, the band erupts into a classic bluegrass inferno of fast and furious string picking showcasing their skill as well as some of their influences. And on "Get In" the band slow it down a notch capture the mood of swimming in a languid ocean. The track sounds both fresh and familiar peppered with three-part harmonies and Mimi on mandolin.

Over the years, Fruition have toured with or collaborated with members of Railroad Earth, ALO, Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, Elephant Revival and The Head and The Heart. They've thrilled audiences at festivals including Jamcruise, High Sierra Music Festival, Northwest String Summit and All Good Music Festival, and played for packed rooms at Portland, OR's Crystal Ballroom, Boulder, CO's Fox Theater, San Francisco's Fillmore as well as the Great American Music Hall, Boston, MA's Brighton Music Hall and more. With no signs of slowing down, the band takes each day as it comes. From broken down vans and whiskey shots, to the lovers and loved-ones who check-in through the miles, at the end of the day it's Just One of Them Nights for this talented bunch who are experiencing a radiant present and looking towards an even brighter future. The band released an EP recorded with their friends in Colorado's Grant Farm in August and are wrapping up a new full length for 2015. [less...]

The FirstGrass Concert is completely free thanks to a partnership between Planet Bluegrass and the Town of Mountain Village.

Planet BluegrassTown of Mountain Village