Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2013: The four greatest moments in 40 yearsBy Matt Miller | June 20th, 2013 | No Comments »
After 40 years, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has developed some long-standing traditions: late-night jam sessions, house bands and musicians who have returned for decades. And maybe it’s partly because of this well-loved, established culture that something unexpected happened when tickets went on sale for the 2013 festival: Four-day passes sold out in three hours before a single act had even been announced.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival celebrates its 40th Anniversary this weekend by bringing Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, the String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon and Jackson Browne to southwest Colorado.
With help from G. Brown — the former Denver Post music critic whose book “Forty Years of Telluride Bluegrass Festival” is due this fall — we put together four moments that have defined the popular annual event.
Follow our coverage of Telluride Bluegrass Festival all weekend on Reverb.
4) Burning the Nightgrass oil
Many newcomers to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival might not know who Chris Daniels is, but he’s the reason fans today can see acts such as Mumford & Sons or the Punch Brothers perform in a 300-person room. In 1983, Daniels started gathering musicians to play in the Sheridan Opera House after the main-stage festival had closed its gates for the night. These have since become the intimate and coveted Nightgrass sessions.
3) A new vision, with sweet baby James
When Craig Ferguson took over the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1989 from founder Fred Shellman, he did so with the goal to book a more diverse lineup. The following year, with James Taylor on the bill, the town had to put a cap on the number of tickets people could buy because sales were so high, G. Brown said.
2) The mighty Mumford
When Mumford & Sons first played TBF in 2010, its debut album was only a few months old, and the band was still relatively unknown in the States. Fast-forward a few years, and Mumford & Sons — now a household name — was one of the most anticipated acts at TBF this weekend before the band was forced to cancel its performance because of a blood clot on bassist Ted Dwane’s brain. Having played the festival in 2011 and what would have been a third time this year, Mumford’s presence has pushed TBF to historic levels of popularity, especially with younger audiences.
1) The man, the myth, the king
The most storied tradition, nearly as old as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival itself, is the presence of Sam Bush. He has played the festival every year since 1975 and has earned himself the title King of Telluride. His dedication helped popularize the newgrass style and the festival as a whole.