Beloved and annoying, the biggest F word: Festivals

by DGO Web Administrator

As the season winds down its time to address the F word: Festival, a beloved and annoying part of the music scene around the world; in Colorado, they’re part of music DNA, as they seem to happen on every weekend in every corner of the state from June to September, aiding to a town’s economy and giving a leg up to young bands. If you’ve gone to enough of the local ones, you’ve heard drunken people imitate Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman and his mating call and battle cry of the word “FESTIVAAAAAL!!!!!” over and over.

It’s a great way to knock out seeing a bunch of bands at once. Granted, the bands get shorter sets, and at times the festival provides a setting with more distractions than you’d encounter seeing the band in a club. There’s usually a campground filled with thirsty hordes transferring beer from cooler to mouth to port-a-potty in grand fashion. There’re elaborate camping rigs, from trucks to RVs to tents and tarps bungeed in the trees. And there’s a wide variety of music fans, from the festival dorks with knowledge of the lineup of every festival that has happened throughout the summer, to the people in attendance who think they like music, but spend the whole weekend talking through every performance or skipping the music altogether. You certainly see more faces at festivals than you do in club shows. Durango proved that when 40 people showed up for Jim Lauderdale.

Yet I’m a fan. Sure, I’m annoyed with the aforementioned gabbers, the bluegrass aficionados offended when the campground picking circle decides to cover The Meat Puppets or the amateurs who can’t handle their booze. But for the most part they’re loaded with good music and good company in a good setting.

There’s still time for more; three weeks from now you’ll read about, and hopefully attend The Meltdown on the Mesa, and Friday you may head out to the Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs.

Its atmosphere is appealing from stage to campground. Music will happen round the clock, whether on the stage or among the trees on Reservoir Hill. You’ll get little sleep and by the end of it, constant picking from acoustic instrumentation should rightfully drive some of you to shelve the Nickel Creek records and pick up Reign in Blood.

The lineup boasts a deep pool of talent, and there’s always a ringer, and that ringer this year is Del McCoury, closing out Saturday.

He’s one of the remaining musicians tied into bluegrass’ early days, joining Bill Monroe’s band in 1963. Bluegrass critics throw around the phrases “hard driving” and “high and lonesome” enough that they’ve become a played out literary cliché when describing bluegrass, but those phrases were made for McCoury. If you see one set at one festival during your life, this is the one. McCoury’s contribution to the festival industry, from the music on stage to the campground scene, has set the bar at making these events valued institutions for the music-loving public. Seeing him is witnessing a bluegrass icon, a murder ballad crooner taking requests from the crowd with the appeal and kindness of a favorite uncle.

The Del McCoury Band’s latest record is a collection of songs that feature lyrics of Woody Guthrie that were never put to music, titled “Del and Woody.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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