2016 NightGrass Shows

Punch Brothers at the Sheridan (photo Benko Photographics)
Punch Brothers at the Sheridan
(photo Benko Photographics)

The sun may set and the temperature may drop, but the music doesn't stop at Telluride Bluegrass... NightGrass is the late-night component of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

These intimate indoor shows are held nightly at the historic Sheridan Opera House and historic Swede-Finn Hall (both located just a few blocks from the Town Park festival grounds) as well as the Palm Theatre (on the west end of town, an easy walk down Colorado Avenue or serviced by free shuttles). Special shows are also held at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village (a free gondola ride from Telluride).

2016 NightGrass Schedule

  Sheridan
Opera House
Palm Theatre Swede-Finn Hall Telluride Conference
Center
Wednesday
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Yonder Mountain String Band
Thursday Hillbenders present Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry Infamous Stringdusters Mandolin Orange
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Friday Yonder Mountain String Band Leftover Salmon Sierra Hull
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Saturday Del McCoury Band Greensky Bluegrass Haas Kowert Tice
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Sunday Punch Brothers
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Wednesday, June 15
Yonder Mountain String Band
15th Annual Bluegrass Kickoff Party with...
  • 9pm show / 8pm doors (All Ages)
  • Telluride Conference Center, 580 Mountain Village Blvd, Mountain Village
  • Tickets: $30 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
For the 15th consecutive year, Festivarians from around the world will board the sunset gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village to celebrate the kick-off of Telluride Bluegrass. It's the official beginning to four adventurous, magical days of music and Festivation in Telluride, with one of Festivarian Nation's favorite bands. It will be one of the sets people talk about all weekend — a high-energy improvisational freak-out, followed by a Festivarian-filled gondola ride descending into the lights of Telluride. If this is your first Telluride, this is where to begin. If it's not your first, well... then you already know. Top
Thursday, June 16
The Hillbenders
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Sheridan Opera House, 110 North Oak Street, Telluride
  • Tickets: $35 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
"Ever since I was a young boy I played the silver ball." It's a line known around the world from the biggest rock opera of all time, The Who’s Tommy. 45 years after its original release, this classic of classic rock has been reconceived as a full-length bluegrass tribute by Missouri quintet (and 2009 Telluride Band Contest winners) The HillBenders. With all of the original record's energy, instrumental showmanship, and rock star vocals in tact, The HillBenders bring a new perspective to Tommy while paying total respect to its creators -- a feat recognized by new HillBenders fan Pete Townshend himself. Top
The Infamous Stringdusters
  • 11pm show / 10pm doors (Ages 21+)
  • Michael D. Palm Theatre, 721 West Colorado Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $25 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
Tradition and innovation provide the interlocking roots of bluegrass and its descendants, a lively dance of elements skipping comfortably from ancient jigs to radio ditties to spacious experimentation.  The Infamous Stringdusters joyously embody and carry forward the spirit of Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Earl Scruggs, David Bromberg and other originators in their skilled embrace of this music’s twin gravitational pulls, moving dexterously between homespun legacy and creative expansion, a band firmly grounded in what has come before as they grow strong into tomorrow. [more...]

"What we do is a hybrid of the improvisational and bluegrass worlds.  We take a lot of pride in that.  While our music is our own concept, hopefully it does justice to the amazing components of the bluegrass world," says Stringdusters Chris Pandolfi.  "We love to present what we do but we always call on the bluegrass world of chops, technique, and traditions."

GRAMMY-nominated The Infamous Stringdusters - Andy Hall (Dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Travis Book (double bass), and Pandolfi (banjo) – are as comfortable at a dirt road pickin’ session as they are on an amphitheatre stage, a collection of talents that can whisper and roar as the circumstance demands, responding in real time to their surroundings, working the angles as they ply their craft and raise their sinewy voices with limber grace. 

Equal parts old school cats and modern operators, the Stringdusters’ latest album, Ladies & Gentlemen (Compass Records) spotlights the band’s gift for incorporating guests into their world by rolling out the red carpet for an eclectic array of female singers lending their pipes to a dozen original Stringdusters compositions. 

Highlighting the group’s instrumental and compositional prowess, the new set opens up fresh spaces including the drum-boosted contemporary country bounce of "Listen" with airwave vet Joan Osborne, the classic Dolly Parton feel "See How Far You’ve Come" with Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour), the slow jam slink of "Have A Little Faith" with nu-soul belter Joss Stone, the contemporary folk breeze of "I Believe" with Lee Ann Womack, the rousing Americana soar of "Old Whiskey Bottle" with Celia Woodsmith, or the exhilarating style stew of "Hazosphere" with Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band).  Elsewhere Mary Chapin Carpenter, Aoife O'Donovan (Crooked Still, Sometymes Why, The Goat Rodeo Sessions), Celia Woodsmith (Della Mae), Sarah Jarosz, Nicki Bluhm, Claire Lynch and Abigail Washburn weave their voices into one of the group’s strongest song cycles to date.

"Something unifying carries across the different tracks despite the diversity.  All of the ladies really brought something special, often melodically, to each song," says Andy Falco.  "They took liberties with what we gave them, which is wonderful.  They adapted the material and made it their own, so the finished track was truly a merger of the Stringdusters and each unique collaborator."

"The lineup crosses all these interesting lines, from genres to relationships to different generations.  It brings all these different things together," says Pandolfi.  "It has us playing with people that are new to us, playing with people from our scene, and playing with legends.  When making a new Stringdusters album the challenge is finding the mojo - the heart of the matter - and this project has so much heart and mojo coming from all sorts of directions."

Ladies & Gentlemen, the Stringdusters’ sixth full-length studio release, follows on the heels of Undercover, an EP of inspired cover tunes that reflect the variety of interests and influences in the Stringdusters, tapping the catalogs of Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and The Highwaymen.  It’s another sign of the band’s desire to stretch and innovate even as they fully understand and honor the legacies they engage.

"It’s a challenge we’ve embraced over the years.  We’re a band that’s all about original music AND our own approach to old songs," says Pandolfi.  "It’s always been our thing to find a new way to do this."

A resounding feeling of rock-ribbed authenticity and charming sincerity infuses every aspect of what the Stringdusters do.

"You can’t fool an audience," says Falco.  "There’s a yearning for real stuff in our time right now.  Pop music is so perfect today but it’s sterile and the feeling inside it is being lost.  When I listen to The Band, the background vocals aren’t perfectly lined up but it’s perfect in its imperfections.  That’s what you want to hear.  That’s where something grand unfolds.  That’s grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs.  When you’re younger you think you want the Spaghetti-Os but really you want what grandma is cooking up.  As we grow as a band, we reach for more of those home cooked moments in the studio, in concert, in everything we do." [less...]
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Mandolin Orange
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Swede-Finn Hall, 472 West Pacific Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $20 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
After the breakout critical success of Mandolin Orange's Yep Roc debut, 'This Side of Jordan,' you'd expect the relentless onslaught of touring that accompanied it to seep into the writing of the North Carolina duo's follow-up. You'd expect the sound to reflect long days on the road, long nights onstage, unfamiliar cities, countless miles.  You'd expect the classic "road record." But you'd be wrong. [more...]

"All of these songs are definitely a product of being on the road," says multi-instrumentalist/singer Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange's gorgeous new album, 'Such Jubilee,' "but they're not about the road."

"They're about home," explains songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/singer Andrew Marlin. "Not because we were missing it, but because when you're gone so much, you start realizing what you have and what's waiting for you. You realize there's this place to come back to at the end of the journey, and that's where a lot of these songs come from."

The road has been good to Mandolin Orange since the 2013 release of 'This Side of Jordan.' NPR called the album "effortless and beautiful," naming it one of the year's best folk/Americana releases, while Magnet dubbed it "magnificent," and American Songwriter said it was "honest music, shot through with coed harmonies, sweeping fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and the sort of unfakeable intimacy that bonds simpatico musicians like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings." The record earned them performances everywhere from the iconic Newport Folk Festival to Pickathon, as well as tours with Willie Watson, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Wood Brothers, and more. 

"When you play these festivals, you start meeting all these other people doing what you're doing," says Marlin. "There are so many musicians together in one place and you become part of this community. We got to hang out with Tim O'Brien and Peter Rowan and Norman Blake. Sitting down and talking to them and playing with them, you get to see the personal side of them rather than the hero side." 

"With all the touring and festivals, you look around and realize, 'OK we're actually doing this now,'" adds Frantz. "We're not just trying to do it, it's what we do, and that ties into a lot of the themes on the record."

It's at the heart of album opener 'Old Ties and Companions,' which takes stock of such rewarding moments. 

"A good friend of mine and I were talking about this time in our lives - we've got all these friends playing music and everybody's playing with everybody and trading songs and it’s really special," explains Marlin. "But you don't know how long that's going to be around, so we don’t take this time for granted."

"Old man give me endless time," he and Frantz sing in stirring harmony. "Never let these ties sever / Cause heaven knows in all this foolin' round these times won't last forever."

To make the most of such magical, ephemeral moments, the duo set up facing each other with just a vocal and instrumental mic each in Asheville's Echo Mountain studio for the 'Such Jubilee' sessions. It proved to be the perfect setup to capture the undeniable chemistry of their live performances. 

"I think a lot of times when people set out to layer tracks on a recording, they want the rhythm or a click track first," says Frantz, who initially met Marlin at a 2009 bluegrass jam in Carrboro, North Carolina. "But we've just played together for so long that subconsciously we know where all the spaces need to be and what's going to fill in afterwards. When it's just the two of us in there, we don’t have to orchestrate as much ahead of time because it all just falls into place so naturally."

On "Settled Down," Marlin looks at what it takes to find that level of comfort in a relationship, singing, "Moments, just fleeting times with little wings of gold / remind us of how real we find true love in every sign of getting older." "Daylight" looks for peace in long-term companionship and trust, "That Wrecking Ball" meditates on the sometimes ravaging passage of time, and album closer "Of Which There Is No Like" is a delicate, wistful duet about coming home, literally and metaphorically.

Not all of the songs are purely introspective, though. "Jump Mountain Blues" takes its name from a town in Virginia where Marlin spent weekends growing up. According to local folklore, a Native American girl threw herself off of the mountain rather than give up her true love to marry the man of her father's choosing. Marlin conjures up a haunting vision of the father, forced to watch her ghost rise and fall again every night when he looks at the peak. "Rounder" is written in the cowboy tradition and can be heard as a statement against capital punishment, while "Blue Ruin" was penned in response to the horrific violence at Sandy Hook.

"I was thinking about all those kids who wouldn’t be there on Christmas morning," says Marlin. "People can get so heated and so serious about change and addressing gun violence when something that traumatic happens, but a month or two afterwards, they've all cooled down and it's not in the forefront of their thoughts anymore. But two years later, those kids still aren't around on Christmas morning and their parents are still dealing with that."

It's a weighty moment on an album that doesn't shy away from grappling with difficult topics: intimacy, death, distance, regret. 'Such Jubilee' is a record about home, both the place and the idea. Some days it's a safe, warm, loving refuge from the world outside. Other days it's cold and empty and too quiet. Either way, it's always waiting for you at the end of the road. [less...]
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Friday, June 17
Yonder Mountain String Band
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Sheridan Opera House, 110 North Oak Street, Telluride
  • Tickets: $35 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
This whole NightGrass "lottery" really started with Yonder's epic Friday nights at the Sheridan. This was the show for Festivarians -- the hot ticket. That was 6 years ago, and nothing has changed about this late-night Kinfolk throwdown at the Sheridan. One of the biggest names in progressive acoustic music plays their most intimate show of the year on a crazed Friday night in Telluride. So um, yeah, start filling out that lottery form right now. Top
Leftover Salmon
  • 11pm show / 10pm doors (Ages 21+)
  • Michael D. Palm Theatre, 721 West Colorado Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $25 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
One of the most storied bands in Telluride lore (Vince and Drew first played together in a Town Park jam circa 1989) ignites the Palm Theatre with a euphoric late-night Cajun slamgrass firestorm. The term "NightGrass" is defined (possibly redefined?) by a show like this. Ooh la la, what a way to finish a Friday night. Top
Sierra Hull
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Swede-Finn Hall, 472 West Pacific Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $20 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
“She plays the mandolin with a degree of refined elegance and freedom that few have achieved,” says Bela Fleck, the genre-leaping banjo master who produced Weighted Mind. “And now her vocals and songwriting have matured to the level of her virtuosity.” Alison Krauss says of Hull, “I think she’s endless. I don’t see any boundaries. Talent like hers is so rare, and I don’t think it stops. It’s round.” [more...] Hull came to us as a bluegrass thrush, a teen prodigy. Krauss called her to the Grand Ole Opry stage when Hull was 11-years-old. Two years later, she signed with Rounder Records, and soon became known as a remarkable mandolin player, a tone-true vocalist, and a recording artist of high order. She played the White House, and Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center, and she became the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. [less...] Top
Saturday, June 18
Del McCoury Band
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Sheridan Opera House, 110 North Oak Street, Telluride
  • Tickets: $35 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
It's Bluegrass Saturday night and we've given the keys to the historic Sheridan Opera House to one of bluegrass music's all-time great bands. For fifty years, Del’s music has defined authenticity for hard core bluegrass fans.  McCoury is something special, a living link to the days when bluegrass was made only in hillbilly honkytonks, schoolhouse shows and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, yet also a commandingly vital presence today, from TV and radio to major rock festivals where audiences number in the hundreds of thousands. Del and the Boys have been recognized with every award in roots music from Grammys to dozens of IBMA awards. Tonight they'll add their own unforgettable story to the lore of Sheridan Saturdays. Magic guaranteed. Top
Greensky Bluegrass
  • 11pm show / 10pm doors (Ages 21+)
  • Michael D. Palm Theatre, 721 West Colorado Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $25 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
After winning the TBF band contest in 2006, the Kalamazoo quintet have become highly-requested staples of the box canyon. Greensky NightGrass sets continue to dominate chapters of the NightGrass scrapbook: closing their '12 Sheridan Saturday show with a series of unforgettable encores in the park outside the venue; an artfully choreographed reunion of Broke Mountain (featuring members of Infamous Stringdusters) at the '13 Palm. What story will you be telling the grandkids about GSBG's Palm '16...? Top
Haas Kowert Tice
  • 11pm show / 10:30pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Swede-Finn Hall, 472 West Pacific Avenue, Telluride
  • Tickets: $20 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
There’s a lightness and joy to the music of American roots trio Haas Kowert Tice, a sense of weightlessness that belies the complexity of the musical arrangements. This is music that uplifts, that soars, but that is also grounded by a respect and love for tradition. With just three acoustic instruments–fiddle, guitar, upright bass–Haas Kowert Tice are building a new kind of roots music. [more...]

Made up of three of the most exciting instrumentalists on the scene today, this trio of fiddler Brittany Haas (Crooked Still), bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), and guitarist Jordan Tice (Tony Trischka) have come together on their debut album, you got this, to use their string band roots to engage in close dialogue. Entirely instrumental, this is wordless communication heard from three distinct voices working for unity. “There is so much we don’t have to say to each other,” explains Paul Kowert. “We got together because we wanted a project in which we could explore our ideas--we wanted to see what we could find. We each contributed writing, and were each able to tinker with each other’s ideas. I think in this album you hear discovery.” That joy of discovery is key to this collaboration of master instrumentalists. It’s also the fuel that’s powered their careers so far: Brittany Haas exploring fiddle traditions with Bruce Molsky, Darol Anger, and Alasdair Fraser; Paul Kowert’s ground-breaking work with The Punch Brothers and now Dave Rawlings Machine, and his studies with Edgar Meyer; Jordan Tice’s ensembles and recordings with like-minded artists like Noam Pikelny and Casey Driessen. The thread that ties this all together is a driving passion to share great music with friends.

Trying to track the many overlapping influences on you got this is a labyrinthine process. For example, “Grandpa’s Cheesebarn,” a tune composed by Jordan Tice, brings together alternate banjo tunings, Norwegian dance tunes, hard-rocking folk rhythms, and Debussy-like string arrangements. “We’re all living lives that are bursting at the seams with all sorts of music,” Haas explains. “I think we’ve been inspired by similar things over the years and have inspired and influenced each others’ musical paths.” Haas Kowert Tice also love to experiment with delicate balances. Opening tune “Leadfoot” slips back and forth between a buoyant dance tune and the deep growling of Kowert’s bass lines. “Tell Me Whatcha Gonna Do Now” trades off a gorgeous, pastoral guitar line from Tice with Haas’ devilishly syncopated fiddling, incorporating sudden moments of softness and tranquility. There’s an element of surprise to the music of Haas Kowert Tice; tunes take unexpected turns, and melodies duck and weave in abrupt and exciting directions.

All three artists in Haas Kowert Tice have built their careers on their ability to move on the razor’s edge of tradition and innovation. They have a nearly unlimited arsenal of tools gathered from years in top-flight ensembles, but they’re not interested in flashy displays. This young trio would rather move their audiences with unique melodies, powerful arrangements, searingly beautiful playing on the fiddle and guitar, and stomach-rumbling chords and eloquent passages on the upright bass. They see each tune as a journey that they take with their listeners, but also as a path that they can travel together, discovering new ideas and new passions around every corner. [less...]
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Sunday, June 19
Punch Brothers
  • 10:30pm show / 10pm doors (Ages 21+ unless accompanied by a parent)
  • Sheridan Opera House, 110 North Oak Street, Telluride
  • Tickets: $35 (sold via online lottery 4/26-4/27)
After the last note has been played on the main stage, musicians make their way to the Sheridan for the festival's final epic jams, wringing every last drop of music out of the artists who have defined our 4 days of acoustic adventure. Many emotional notes will be played and sung deep, deep into this night as we bid farewell to another TBF. Much like Yonder's Wednesday night kick-off party, this show has become an essential part of the Telluride Bluegrass experience. The Punch Brothers are the soundtrack to our journey home; they are the musical guide to set us on our way toward the 44th Telluride Bluegrass next Summer Solstice. Top

Special thanks to our NightGrass partner...
New Belgium Brewing