2018 FirstGrass Concert: June 20, 5-8pm

Festivarians at FirstGrass (photo Benko Photographics)
2018 FirstGrass poster

Ten years ago we decided the kick-off show at the Telluride Conference Center needed a kick-off of its own...

On Wednesday, June 20 we invite you to board the free gondola from Telluride up to Mountain Village for this free outdoor show in the inspiring Sunset Plaza. From 5-8pm, we're excited to present 2 of the most exciting young artists in the progressive bluegrass scene: Billy Strings followed by the 2016 Telluride band contest winners The Lil Smokies.

What better way to begin your Telluride Bluegrass experience than with this cherished Festivarian tradition at 9,540'.

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 gondola, 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 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

2018 FirstGrass Artists

Billy Strings
Billy Strings plays hard and he lives hard, picking so fast and intensely that he's known to break multiple strings per song, and basing the songs he writes on the hard lives he grew up around in the abandoned rural communities of America. His new album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, taps into a deep vein of psychedelia in Americana, referencing everything from the Dead to Sturgill Simpson, but all underlaid by Billy's undeniable virtuosity and his knowledge of the roots of American music. He's one of the most beloved young bluegrass guitarists today within the bluegrass community, and his front porch in East Nashville is constantly filled up with Nashville's best roots musicians just picking up a storm. [more...]

The tricky part of making the new album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, was translating Billy Strings' incendiary live show into the studio. Returning to his home state of Michigan, Billy enlisted acoustic roots wizard Glenn Brown (Greensky Bluegrass) as producer, and centered the music around his new band, featuring Drew Matulich on mandolin with banjo prodigy Billy Failing and much-loved Nashville bassist Brad Tucker. Rich with special guests, Turmoil & Tinfoil shows off Billy's East Nashville community of picking friends, among them Miss Tess, Molly Tuttle, John Mailander, Shad Cobb and Peter Madcat Ruth. Of special note is a virtuosic duet between Billy and bluegrass guitarist Bryan Sutton on "Salty Sheep" that shows the speed, precision, and creative craftsmanship of bluegrass when it's done right. [less...]

The Lil Smokies
When people see The Lil Smokies setting up their acoustic instruments, they're often unprepared for the electric energy they generate. The band captures that same dynamic presence on their new album, Changing Shades, delivering their exceptional songwriting and bluegrass roots with the punch of a rock band."We wanted to duplicate the energy of our live shows. It's a perfect mixture of improvisation and composition. The record shows how fearless we've become in the last year," says Andy Dunnigan, lead songwriter, singer and dobro player. They cut Changing Shades in a lighthearted, week-long session at SnowGhost Music in Whitefish, MT with engineer Brett Allen (The Avett Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Béla Fleck) and co-producer Rob Gordon (Elephant Revival). "It was a breeze," Dunnigan says. "Rob got us to focus on what makes each song special. We refined and recorded them live, together in one room, just like on stage." [more...]

The first incarnation of The Lil Smokies got together in Missoula, Montana, during the winter of 2009. Through the years, the band transformed and settled into the current lineup – Scott Parker on bass; Jake Simpson on fiddle; Matt Rieger on guitar; Matt Cornette on banjo and Dunnigan on dobro. Previously, the band has won the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Band competition and took home the 2016 IBMA Momentum Band of the Year award. They've also wowed fans at the High Sierra, FreshGrass, Telluride Bluegrass, Grey Fox, Del Fest, Floyd Fest and String Summit festivals, to name a few. [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