Four Corners folks, Sneaky Pete and motorcycles

Four Corners folks, Sneaky Pete and motorcycles

David Grisman headlines the 23rd annual Four Corners Folk Festival Friday through Sunday in Pagosa Springs.

Chris Aaland - 08/30/2018

The 23rd annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place Friday through Sunday on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs. This year’s lineup is one of the best ever, with headliners like the Dawg Trio featuring David Grisman, Sam Bush, and Nahko & Medicine for the People are sure to draw crowds. The undercard, too, is strong, with Amy Helm, We Banjo 3, the Jon Stickley Trio, Darling West and the Accidentals on the bill. Even longtime Reservoir Hill favorites like Front Country, Bonnie & the Clydes and Tallgrass reappear.

While I haven’t been along for the ride from the beginning (I believe my first was the fourth in 1999), I have seen it grow into an annual highlight here in the Southwest. In 2003, a third day was added. A few years later, late- night sets sprouted from the ponderosa needles covering the forest floor. Along the way, the fenced-off beer garden was expanded to include the entirety of the festival grounds, allowing patrons to enjoy a frothy pint from their seats. But some things have remained constant, like the commitment to a family friendly camping environment.

One thing I’m truly looking forward to is Sunday’s finale. Sam Bush takes the stage at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Dawg Trio two hours later. At age 73, David Grisman isn’t getting any younger; nor is the 66-year-old Bush. The two have collaborated numerous times throughout their career, including the instrumental masterpiece “Hold On, We’re Strummin,’” released 15 years ago. It’s rare to get the chance to see one innovator who has developed his own style of music. Back in the 1970s, Grisman created “Dawg Music,” which blended jazz, swing, chamber and bluegrass into a laid-back groove. Bush and his cohorts in New Grass Revival popularized “newgrass,” with its psychedelic rock-inspired jams. Most certainly they’ll join each other onstage Sunday.

Amy Helm is another I’m excited about. The daughter of the legendary Levon Helm, she fuses more soul, gospel and blues into her folksy, Americana sound than anyone since, well, her pops. Fifteen years ago, she was part of the neo-folk quintet Ollabelle, which gained steam thanks to festival appearances (including on Reservoir Hill) and public radio. When Levon’s career had a Grammy-winning renaissance 11 years ago, Amy played a central role, appearing both on record and in his notorious “Midnight Ramble” bands that would hold court each weekend in Woodstock. She went solo in 2015 with the exceptional “Didn’t It Rain,” followed up by the brand-new “This Too Shall Light.” Helm takes the stage at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Then there’s Nahko & Medicine for the People, which wrap up Saturday’s mainstage performances with an 8 p.m. set. Led by singer/songwriter/renaissance man Nahko Bear, who struggled as a child to identify with his mixed background of Apache, Puerto Rican and Filipino cultures, the group is best known for its feel-good messages, not dissimilar from those of Michael Franti & Spearhead or Jack Johnson.

Bonnie & the Clydes is one relative newcomer to keep your eye on. The Front Range trio is a vehicle for the twangy songs of Bonnie Sims and her husband, Taylor. Dig deeper into their roster, though, and you’ll find Colorado alt-country and bluegrass royalty populating the Clydes. Drummer Todd Moore, pedal steel guitarist Glenn Taylor and bassist Caleb Roberts are all alumni of Colorado’s legendary goth-country outfit, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Taylor, in fact, has lent his talents to the likes of the Railbenders and Cowboy Dave as well. Roberts is best known as a founding member of Open Road, the Northern Colorado bluegrass outfit that was huge a decade ago. And Taylor Sims once led Spring Creek, which played the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown with regularity a decade ago and was the only band to win both the Telluride and RockyGrass band competitions in the same year. Catch them early on Saturday, at 11:30 a.m.

Lest we forget, the Jon Stickley Trio is back. Stick is no stranger to local bluegrass fans. In fact, he was one of us. Forged from the fires of Telluride, RockyGrass and Reservoir Hill was a quintet called the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band. According to legend, five young’uns from the Four Corners and North Carolina met up and formed a musical bond. Though their time together was brief, Broke Mountain launched the careers of Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters), Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Stickley and local singer/guitarist Robin Davis. Stickley bounced from one gig to another for several years after Broke Mountain dissolved (the Biscuit Burners, Colorado Playboys, Shannon Whitworth and Town Mountain), playing acoustic & electric guitar, bass, mandolin ... basically, whatever he could get his hands on. His namesake trio gave him the chance to shine. With fiddler Lyndsay Pruett adding flowing solos and intricate backing to his guitar pyrotechnics, the trio has emerged as the heir apparent to the David Grisman Quintet. Stickley plays at 6 p.m. Friday on the mainstage and 11 p.m. Saturday on the late-night stage.

The free Concerts in the Plaza series at Three Springs concludes with the Jackson Hole-based R&B and rock band Sneaky Pete & the Secret Weapons from 6-8 p.m. tonight (Thurs., Aug. 30). Just down 160 from Three Springs, the weekly Ska-B-Q features the Pete Giuliani Band at 5 that same night.

The Four Corners Motorcycle Rally rolls through town Friday through Sunday, with a variety of events, including a pair of free concerts at 10th & Main from 6-9:30 p.m. with the Kirk James Band taking the stage Friday and Ben Gibson Band playing Saturday. There will also be a full slate of activites at the Durango Harley-Davidson as well as Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio. Beer has been donated by Coors and proceeds will go to benefit Building Homes for Heroes. For dets, go to www.fourcornersmotorcyclerally.com.

Finally, Steamworks taps another firkin at 3 p.m. Friday – this time around it’s Palisade Punch, based in Third Eye P.A. and fermented with Palisade peach juice and an apricot puree.

Some folks say that a hippie won’t steal? Email me at chrisa@go brainstorm.net.

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