Lone wolves, beer gone bananas & best of the fest

Lone wolves, beer gone bananas & best of the fest

East Los Angeles sextet Los Lobos spearheads this weekend's Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs

Chris Aaland - 08/31/2017

Festival season begins its big unwind this weekend as the 22nd annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs. The FolkWest crew booked one of its best lineups ever this time, spearheaded by Los Lobos, Be?la Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Sarah Jarosz, and the Wood Brothers. A slew of relative newcomers are also on the bill, including We Banjo 3, the Accidentals, Quiles & Cloud, Freddy & Francine, Session Americana, the Drunken Hearts and the Ghosts of Paul Revere. And, of course, there are the semi-regular acts, like Finnders & Youngberg, Lil’ Smokies, the East Pointers and John Fullbright. We’ll break out my highlights at the end of the column.

A festival on Reservoir Hill means more than just onstage music, though. It’s a camping festival and one that’s particularly family-friendly. Your tent is just a few minutes’ walk from the main stage. More likely than not, you can enjoy a cup of coffee or something stronger in camp while listening to the artists on stage. And with daily lineups starting at 11 a.m. or later, you can wander into Pagosa for a relaxing soak to wash away the morning’s hangover.

Local bluegrass takes center stage at the Balcony Friday night, keeping a lot of the region’s best pickers out of Reservoir Hill campfire jams. So, if you’re stuck in Durango, the smart money puts you at the Balcony at 5:30 p.m. for the Clods before moving inside to the Backstage for Six Dollar String Band’s old-time set at 9:30.

One of the most talented singer/songwriters in the region, Tyller Gummersall, headlines a three-act bill at the Sky Ute outdoor stage Saturday afternoon & evening in Ignacio. Ty takes the stage from 8-10 p.m. with a band comprised of Denver-area and Four Corners ringers, including Red Greer on fiddle. You might even catch Durango city councilman Chris Bettin sit in on a song or two. Also scheduled to appear: the High Rollers from 4-5:30 and Rockslide from 6-7:30.

This Friday marks the first Friday of the month, meaning it’s time for Steamworks to tap another firkin. This time around, it’s BFF – Bananas Foster Firkin – which gets unveiled at 3 p.m. Bananas Foster, as you probably know, is a popular dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, rum and banana liqueur. Steamworks’ Slam Dunkel is the base of the firkin. As a dunkelweizen, which is a moderately dark German wheat beer, the Slam Dunkel has dominant flavors and aromas of banana, a characteristic that is a by-product of yeast fermentation. “We caramelized brown sugar on the stove, deglazed it with spiced rum and vanilla extract, reducing it to a thick syrup similar to the traditional Bananas Foster, but without the exhibition flame,” head brewer Ken Martin said. “It should make for a tasty treat.” Surprisingly, no banana flavor was added.

Finally, tonight’s Ska-B-Q (Thurs., Aug. 31) features Salem Acoustic at 5 p.m. at the World Headquarters in Bodo Park. The duo of Thomas Haupt on classical guitar and live loops, and Todd Anders Johnson on cajon and vocals blends flamenco, Brazilian jazz, soul and hip-hop. They travel with the Risan Project, which combine live music with action sports films.

We haven’t broken out the Top Shelf list in a while, but we’ll do so this week. Here are 10 things I’m looking forward to the most at the Four Corners Folk Festival:

1. Los Lobos (8 p.m. Saturday) – The East Los Angeles sextet is one of the last remaining classic Southern California roots-rock

bands of my youth. The Beat Farmers, the Blasters, the Long Ryders, Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, and Rank & File have all split up, had members die, or remain on the oldies circuit in vastly different lineups. But the Wolf survives.

2. Be?la Fleck & Abigail Washburn (7 p.m. Sunday) – This duo played the Community Concert Hall a few years back, which I missed; and I’ve been in Town Park for their Telluride Bluegrass appearances, but was more focused on chasing my children around than listening.

I’ll sit front and center for the husband-and-wife duo’s enchanting mix of old-time music with Fleck’s five-string pyrotechnics.

3. Sarah Jarosz (5 p.m. Sunday) – I’ve literally watched Sarah grow up on festival stages. Her latest album, “Undercurrent,” introduces a mature singer/songwriter capable of everything from rock to folk to bluegrass.

4. Finnders & Youngberg (2 p.m. Friday) – Technically, they’re now known as FY5. The Front Range quintet is like family to Durango bluegrass fans. Rumor has it they’ll be playing songs from a brand-new album set to drop any week now. If you miss out, fret not: they’ll return to the area for Meltdown on the Mesa on Sat., Sept. 23.

5. The Lil’ Smokies (7 p.m. Friday, 1:45 p.m. Sunday) – Two times the fun with Montana’s favorite bluegrass sons!

6. The Wood Brothers (6 p.m. Saturday) – At one point, I was slightly fascinated by the brother group led by Chris Wood, best known as bassist for pioneering jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. But there’s little jazz in this rock and Americana group with roots in Boulder ... and I’m fully hooked!

7. The East Pointers (4 p.m. Saturday) – Last year, the Canadian maritime Celtic fusion group stole the show with their late-night jam, main stage set and impromptu second set done in an emergency as the Del McCoury Band was still an hour away from arriving on Reservoir Hill. They’ve played a raucous Telluride Bluegrass set since.

8. We Banjo 3 (3:30 p.m. Sunday) – Still yet even more spirited Celtic music from the eastern shores of Canada!

9. John Fullbright (2:30 p.m. Saturday) – There are a slew of young, talented singer/songwriters from Oklahoma. Fullbright, a 29-year-old from Woody Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah is at the head of the class.

10. The Drunken Hearts (3:30 p.m. Friday) – The Front Range might be known for its bluegrassy jam bands, but Denver was a cow town first. The Drunken Hearts are the latest in a long line of honky tonk heroes who call the Mile High City home.

Make that five-string hop? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.  

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