Live review: Telluride Bluegrass Festival @ Telluride Town Park - Reverb

Live review: Telluride Bluegrass Festival @ Telluride Town Park

Lyle Lovett helped close out Night 1 of the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival on Friday. Photo by Nathan Rist,

Lyle Lovett helped close out Night 1 of the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival on Friday. Photo by Nathan Rist,

For the fifth time since 1987, Country & Western icon Lyle Lovett took the stage with much anticipation from the crowd at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival last Saturday night.

One problem, however: Silence.

Lovett and his Large Band, which included bluegrass godfather Sam Bush and banjo badass Béla Fleck, started the show with the upbeat number “Choke My Chicken,” but Lovett looked like choking the sound engineer might be a better idea. The entire set was peppered with cracks and pops from faulty microphones, but Lovett soldiered on. The lead microphone chord was replaced mid-song only to be replaced again.

View a full photo gallery of all four days of Telluride Bluegrass.

Finally, success, and fans were rewarded with oldies like “Private Conversation,” off Lovett’s 1996 album “The Road To Ensenada,” as well as crowd favorites “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas” and “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.”

Newer efforts, like “Home Is Where My Horse Is,” released off his “Natural Forces” album in 2009, got a respectable amount of applaus. The song, Lovett said, was inspired by a Coors Light commercial, a there’s a nod to Colorado in the line, “Now as I sit here safe at home
With a cold Coors Light an’ the TV on / All the sacrifice and the death and woe / Lord I pray I’m worth fighting for.”

The quote of the evening went to Lovett when he remarked about playing bluegrass music: “Country songs are sad, but bluegrass songs are dangerous.” The crowd cheered in agreement as he blazed into 1987’s “L.A. County.”

The Telluride Bluegrass Festival brings together all types and Friday provided a wide array of acts for all to enjoy. Denver’s Mayor John Hickenlooper took the stage to announce his favorite act, respected bluegrass group Hot Rize, and swapped stories of the Punch Brother’s Chris Thile with the band’s front man Nick Forster.

If you missed an act on the main stage at the festival, no need to worry. Most of the acts brought up musicians from all the acts to collaborate on stage.

Leftover Salmon did not disappoint as they closed out the night. The younger members of the crowd flocked to the stage like moths to a flame and there was much flailing and bouncing about in the spirit of mountain music festivals — little to no bathing, lots of what appears to be dancing and a hula hoop pit.

View a full photo gallery of all four days of Telluride Bluegrass.

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Evan Semón is a Denver freelance photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more his work.

Nathan Rist is a freelance photographer and a regular Reverb contributor. He hails from the mountains of Telluride, but he’s currently studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Categories: Live Reviews, Photo Essays
  • Mik

    Lyle lovett smiled his entire set, from ear to ear. Easy and relaxed, the vibe is so smooth at the Telluride Bluegrass Fest even Lyle could feel it, its all so very good…..I don't know if it's the beautiful mountain vista, the fresh mountain air, the smile in everyones eye, the stellar music or the corn Dogs…… But one thing is for sure, this is one fest that sticks to your ribs and stays with you for awhile…. it's that feelin goovey kickin back sunday kinda fell I'm talkin about. Generations of family all coming to gather to listen, sing and play. Just really heart warming to know there are still some joyous corners of this planet that hold tight on tradition of song, dance and laughter.Proud to be in attendance every June since 1986. This fest just keeps getting better and better. Very smooth operation that makes it more fun to attend…… Planet Bluegrass knows how to get it done right! Very fun, I wanna do it again….

  • PatC77

    This review seems to only scratch the surface of what the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is about – if it even does that. I could write an article twice as long as this just focusing on the venue itself. Surely it's one of the most, if not THE most majestic, magical festival location in America. 360 degree views of some of the most inspiring mountains that Colorado has to offer. And that's exactly what they do to the audience and musicians – inspire. It's a venue that encourages artists to collaborate and push each other artistically, this article makes that seem like a bad thing. Well if that's the case, I must be mistaken about why the crowd was bouncing up and down, belting out the lyrics to “Hey Jude” with Mumford and Sons who were joined by Jerry Douglas, members of Cadillac Sky, Omar Hakim and others. Truly a magical, hair-standing-on-end moment that only happens in Telluride during the summer solstice.

  • John Wenzel

    Full editorial disclosure here: Our writer for this piece (Evan Semon) severely injured his foot during a photo shoot on the first day of the fest, so this is obviously more of a photo essay than a full review…