The 21st annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival concluded in fine form on Sunday. By the third day of the festival, many people are tired and wander in late, particularly after a late two-hour set of Grateful Dead tunes on Saturday night. However, for those who made the trek in early instead of waiting for the later headliners, there was some amazing music to be heard.
Tim Eriksen kicked off the festivities with an intimate set of ballads, including a haunting version of “O Death” and a mournful “Dreadful Wind and Rain.” Eriksen showed a deft instrumental touch on banjo, violin and guitar.
The pacing of the day proved perfect, as Ft. Collins local Danielle Ate the Sandwich followed with her quirky humor. Lead singer Danielle Anderson even addressed friends in the audience that she could see from the stage while introducing “El Paso.”
Those who wanted to hear singer-songwriters could continue by listening to some of the songwriting competition finalists in the Wildflower Pavilion. Meanwhile, Canadian Dan Magan delivered the loudest, most distortion heavy set of the weekend, with ripping rockers like “Rows of Houses.”
After reading Ricardo Baca’s article on the impact of the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, I was intrigued by the Civil Wars. The duo didn’t disappoint, displaying a magnetic stage presence, as waifish Joy Williams danced around her not-husband John Paul White. Whether it was traditional ballads like “You Are My Sunshine” or off-the-wall covers like Smashing Pumpkins “Disarm” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Civil Wars enchanted the audience with their brilliant performance.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops followed with a set that was full of energy and dancing, with a disparate instrumental collection, including a gourd banjo and a kazoo. Rhiannon Giddens tore into “No Man’s Mama” like a combination of Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, while the hypnotic playing on “Snowden’s Jig” closed the set.
Australian singer Missy Higgins talked of having an existential crisis over playing music a few years ago, but thankfully she overcame it and continued performing. Playing without her band, Higgins leant intimacy to her rendition of “Cooling of the Embers,” while the fiery “Peachy” proved just as angry without the drums and electric guitar.
Jackson Browne closed the day with a solo set that included most of his hits, including “Pretender,” “Take It Easy” in response to an audience request, and “Running on Empty.” Browne switched guitars quite frequently during his set, and also sat at the piano for a few.