Find a better bluegrass festival than Durango’s Bluegrass Meltdown. You can try, and many festivals come close, but this is the tops. It is an event that continues to pull in local and regional acts, while also drawing some of the best in the genre, from the up-and-comers to International Bluegrass Music Association award winners.
The 22nd Annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown will begin Friday and will run through the weekend, with music at the Durango Arts Center, The Wild Horse Saloon and Henry Strater Theatre. There also will be a free show Friday at the Powerhouse Science Center.
Performers this year will include Wood & Wire, Chris Henry and Hardcore Grass, Foghorn Stringband, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Sideline, Mipso, Songs of the Fall and many local bands. Greg Blake, a multiyear performer, will be back; this year he’ll be playing with Spring Fever Bluegrass Band. Blake’s just released his solo debut, “Songs of Heart and Home,” featuring songs that will likely make their way into sets throughout the weekend.
The guitar player and singer is as authentic of a bluegrass picker as they come. He’s not a fly-by-night hipster with a shiny copy of the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack in the CD player; rather, he is a man reared on classic country in rural West Virginia. The sounds of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were the gateway to bluegrass in its most traditional sense as he jumped into digging on a healthy dose of Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers.
“I got my first guitar at 7 years old and grew up on the classic country artists,” Blake said in a recent phone interview. “But then I was introduced to bluegrass pretty early on, like 10 or 11 years of age, and got hooked on it and never left my fondness for classic country, I’ve kept that going as well, but definitely bluegrass is my love.”
The Bluegrass Meltdown remains an interactive event, challenging even the remotest of bluegrass fans to come in and not have a good time. It’s impossible; there is music at every corner and every turn at every hour. Those on stage are likely to be the ones having just as much, if not more, fun than paying customers. It’s non-stop music; you’re just as likely to see some of the headliners picking at midnight in the Strater as you are when you watch one of their three to four sets through the weekend.
“If I had the opportunity, I would reserve annually the Meltdown weekend, and make every effort that I could to be there. It’s one of my top five festivals to attend or perform at,” Blake said. “One of the things I love to do, when I’m at a festival I just don’t get on stage and go back to my room, I want to get every bit of the advantage of being at a festival, you’ll see my at some corner with somebody jamming between sets.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].