Talking to folks about last weekend's RockyGrass, one word keeps coming up: "historic."
Okay, one other word always follows closely: "Manzanita." When Jerry Douglas called us with the idea last fall, we knew this would be something special, but the energy and excitement on stage last Saturday night was something truly remarkable. Together with the 3,500 lucky festivarians in attendance, we witnessed not the re-creation of the classic album, but its inspired re-invention. As every single festivarian and performer giggled with awe, Tony Rice pushed the state of the guitar further and further right before our eyes.
But history was being continually written and rewritten throughout the weekend. Douglas, Barenberg, and Meyer set new standards of melody and taste with their first performance in years. Jeff Austin's energy level reached new heights during Yonder's Friday night closing set. The bow was restored to the forefront of acoustic music by standout performances by Crooked Still, Darol Anger's Republic of Strings, and Casey Driessen's tireless guest appearances all weekend.
New songs continued to make their Planet Bluegrass debut all weekend... the activist twang of Steve Earle, emotionally poignant Abigail Washburn, storyteller Darrell Scott, the honky-tonk punk of The Wilders (who will forget Ike Sheldon's Blue Velvet moment!).
The late-night MoonGrass shows provided several of the weekend's highlights as Uncle Earl was joined by guest after guest on Friday night and Tim O'Brien delivered a stirring encore of "Senõr" to close the series on Saturday night.
Earl Scruggs brought with him one of the hottest bands of the weekend, including guests Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, and Rob Ickes. But with every solo the focus shifted back to Earl himself, reminding us that he can still rip it up on the 5-string banjo which he helped invent some 60 years ago. The music's history and it's future.
In all the excitement, did you forget to grab a t-shirt or a poster? (Or just want to pretend you were there, when people are talking about it ten years from now?) Some RockyGrass '06 merch is now up at bluegrass.com.
While the festival is still fresh in your memory, take a second and share your thoughts with us in the online festivarian survey. We take your comments very seriously. We'll even make it worth your while by entering all the RockyGrass surveys into a drawing for a pair of passes to next year's festival.
Speaking of next year, we're already looking forward to hearing a full-length set from this year's band contest winner Long Road Home on the festival main stage. Congratulations to them and to all the instrument contest finalists.
So here we are: a stunning Telluride and a historic RockyGrass behind us; and we're asking ourselves: can we top this? Well, this year's Folks Festival, August 18-20 in Lyons, certainly has that potential. You're probably already excited about the headliners: Ani DiFranco, Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Tweedy, The Waifs. But wait until you hear the less familiar names... fiddling songwriter Andrew Bird, moody indie-folker Elvis Perkins, Australian legend Paul Kelly, Canada's country-pop sensation Blue Rodeo, 17-year-old soulful jazzer Sonya Kitchell. Both Martin Sexton and Pat Flynn (of Newgrass Revival) are putting together full bands for this one - one of our deepest, most diverse Folks lineups ever. Tickets are still available - bluegrass.com or 800-624-2422. More below...
We still have a few spaces left for the most inspiring week on Planet Bluegrass, The Song School. For the entire week leading up to Folks Fest, we bring together a fascinating faculty of performers, writers, and music business professionals, for a summit on songwriting and creativity. Spend a relaxed week with Issa (formerly Jane Siberry), Vance Gilbert, Billy Jonas, Pat Flynn, and many many others, August 13-17. View the full schedule then reserve your space. More info below...
Lastly, for you Colorado festivarians looking to take a break from your Folks Fest packing, head on over to the Boulder Theater on Friday, August 11 for longtime festivarian-favorite the Drew Emmitt Band - vocalist and mandolinist for Leftover Salmon. Tickets are still available at www.bouldertheater.com or 303.786.7030. See you there.
The Folks on Planet Bluegrass
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
It's fitting that our Folks Festival lineup is rich with stories...
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy was chosen by Woody Guthrie's daughter to set Woody's unrecorded lyrics to music. Australian trio The Waifs return to the Planet Bluegrass stage after a year-long hiatus which allowed sister's Donna and Vikki Simpson to raise their infant sons and Josh Cunningham to build a house - by hand. Soul-folk troubadour Amos Lee takes his inspiration from both Stevie Wonder and John Prine.
Kris Kristofferson celebrated the 70th year of his storied career as a songwriter, performer, and actor in June. National treasure Guy Clark will be debuting new material from his forthcoming Workbench Songs - just his 12th record in 30 years of recording. Moira Smiley brings her fiery roots vocal group VOCO for a Sunday morning set of Eastern European and Appalachian harmonies.
Join us on the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons as we write the story of the 16th Annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Relax in the cooling waters of the St. Vrain, share your own songs in campground jams, enjoy songwriters-in-the-round performances in the Wildflower tent, and watch top national talent compete in the renowned Songwriter Showcase. Learn more...
Friday, August 18
Jeff Tweedy | Mindy Smith | Amos Lee | Sonya Kitchell | Pat Flynn & Friends | Billy Jonas | Folks Showcase
Saturday, August 19
Kris Kristofferson | The Waifs | Kathleen Edwards | Guy Clark | Issa(formerly Jane Siberry) | Elvis Perkins in Dearland | Steve Seskin | Kathrin Shorr
Sunday, August 20
Ani DiFranco | Martin Sexton | Blue Rodeo | Andrew Bird | Assembly of Dust | Paul Kelly | Martyn Joseph | moira smiley & VOCO
Three-day festival passes, single-day tickets, and camping are all on sale now: 800-624-2422 or www.bluegrass.com.
The Song School
Each August, songwriters from around the country join together for an in-depth, hands-on exploration of songwriting. We connect to the creative source of music and to each other. Participants create, hone and share their songs during a week that provides a safe and nurturing environment.
Our faculty includes internationally known songwriters, actors, music professionals, and songwriting peers who share their expertise on the art, craft and business of songwriting. Instructors for 2006 included Paul Reisler, Julie Portman, Billy Jonas, Issa (formerly Jane Siberry), Pat Pattison, Moira Smiley, Vance Gilbert, Pat Flynn, Steve Seskin, Rebecca Folsom, David Tamulevich, Maggie Simpson, Arthur Lee, Alan Rowoth, Justin Roth and many more.
The program is elective based and designed to be flexible, allowing students to focus on a variety of topics. A typical day offers early morning stretching followed by electives in performance, vocals, guitar, music business, and specialized topics. After a lunch break, choose a three-hour workshop on creative songwriting with one of seven instructors followed by another elective period. After dinner, students perform songs for each other in the cozy Wildflower Tent and retire to the campground for song-sharing late into the night.
Tuition is $400, which includes four days and nights of workshops, open stages, and campfire jams as well as on-site camping, BBQs, a resource manual and T-shirt or hat. A few spaces are still available. Purchase them online or over the phone - 800-624-2422.