For all the fun to be had inside Town Park, day three of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is when many get the itch to venture outside. It’s hard to pull oneself away from all the great music on the main stage, but it’s best to take at least some time to explore the area outside the festival grounds. Telluride is surrounded by some of the most gorgeous, rugged wilderness in the state, and it would be a shame for anyone to come all the way down here without taking advantage. A hike up to Bridal Veil Falls on Ajax Peak or a few mountain bike laps on the Mountain Village gondola are often just what the doctor ordered to get over the fatigue that can set in after two straight days of music, sun and beer.
In addition, any festvarian would be remiss not to make a trip down Main Street to the Workshop Stage in Elk’s Park. The small stage in the middle of downtown often plays host to many of the performers from the festival proper and is witness to some of the weekend’s most intimate performances. Saturday’s Elk’s Park highlight featured a songwriting seminar with sage advice from Tim O’Brien and Sarah Jarosz. Previous days saw marquee names such as Edgar Meyer, Lake Street Dive and the Punch Brothers playing to crowds a fraction of the size of those in Town Park.
On the main stage, Saturday is the big day for many festivarians, featuring what many consider to be the centerpiece festival: the Sam Bush Band. Bush, the unofficial “King of Telluride,” tore through a high-energy set that included extended covers of the Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider” and the Band’s “Rag Mama Rag.” In a particularly poignant moment, Bush dedicated the latter song to his friend Levon Helm, who passed away last year.
Disappointingly, this set featured less special guests than in previous years. Before the encore, they were joined only briefly by dobro master Jerry Douglas for a stripped down performance of the classic “Spider John.” Douglas had himself impressed on the main stage earlier in the day with a driving, mostly instrumental set that explored the jazzier possibilities of breakneck bluegrass. For the encore, Douglas, as well as members of Leftover Salmon and Jackson Brown, joined Bush for a sing-along to Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
Preceding Bush was this year’s token indie artist Feist, who played with a mellow, bare bones set that featured only guitar, drums, keyboards and her husky, dexterous voice. It was a nice change of pace between the rowdy, jam heavy sets of the Yonder Mountain String Band before and Sam Bush after.
Jonathan Gang is a regular contributor to Reverb.
Dylan Langille is a Fort Collins-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his photos here.