Meadowgrass Music Festival will feature John Doe, others this weekend - Reverb

News: Meadowgrass’ line-up includes John Doe, Horse Feathers, others this weekend

Meadowgrass Music Festival might be the new kid on the folk festival block, but it's already making noise. Pictured here: Great Lake Swimmers playing the 2010 festival.

Meadowgrass Music Festival might be the new kid on the folk festival block, but it's already making noise. Pictured here: Great Lake Swimmers playing the 2010 festival.

Just like catching a band before it makes it big, there’s something rewarding about attending a music festival before everybody else finds out about it.

Roots-music fans will have that opportunity this weekend at the Meadowgrass Music Festival. The event features John Doe (from X), Hot Buttered Rum, Damien Jurado and more at La Foret, which sits on pristinely forested land just north of Colorado Springs.

In its third year, the growing festival hopes to solidify itself as a welcome addition to Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Four Corners Folk Festival, NedFest and the other great roots-music events throughout the state. The festival starts this afternoon and runs through Sunday at the conference center and retreat that was the former summer home of philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor.

“There’s a big meadow where we have the tent, and we can accommodate several thousand people there,” said festival director Steve Harris, who makes his living as an environmental attorney. “The festival area is surrounded by beautiful pine trees, and there’s also a pool, if it’s hot enough.

“It’s a family-friendly vibe, and it’s pretty informal at this point. The performers are staying on site, for the most part, in cabins, and we’re hoping that many of them will join us at the late-night bonfire for a few songs.”

If it sounds like the modest beginnings of an ambitious upstart music festival, it is. But Meadowgrass also plays off its strengths. The location is stunning — and it’s only 80 minutes from Denver, near Black Forest. The vibe is relaxed, with the organizers expecting about 1,000 fans each day. (That means easy parking, short lines, little audience jostling.) And the lineup is strong and well-curated.

Saturday will see X frontman Doe headlining. Doe has made an effortless transition from punk-rock legend to acoustic-folk journeyman, and his solo dates are a sterling opportunity to hear his voice and many stories. Supporting Doe are Portland, Ore., roots rockers Horse Feathers, Brooklyn twangsters Yarn, and notable locals Haunted Windchimes and Spring Creek.

The festival gets a soft start today with Hot Buttered Rum, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Boulder Acoustic Society and others. Sunday’s lineup builds off headliner Frazey Ford with sets from D.B. Reilly, Damien Jurado and other artists.

Festival director Harris is also a part-time instructor at Colorado College, with a weekly Americana show, “Grass Roots Revival,” on KRCC, and he’s excited about a few of the acts that have never played Colorado before. He first heard Yarn when the band started charting on Americana radio.

“I immediately downloaded all their music and started following them as they’ve made a splash on the East Coast,” Harris said. “But I’ve never seen them before, and they just needed someone to pay them enough to justify the trip out here. I think they’re going to blow people away.”

This year’s festival has some new additions, including free yoga for campers, curated family entertainment from area arts groups and a moderated late-night jam with the Changing Colors on Friday and Saturday nights.
And Meadowgrass’ price tag is certainly right: $15 gets you a camping spot for three nights and $50 gets you a weekend pass. Day passes run $15-$30.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.