Return to Reservoir Hill, Flobots and Pink Fish

Return to Reservoir Hill, Flobots and Pink Fish

Guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel performs at the Pagosa Folk'n Blue- grass Festival at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Chris Aaland - 06/07/2018

Festival season is upon us! The 13th annual Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass Festival runs Friday through Sunday on Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs. This time around, 15 bands and artists from the folk, bluegrass and Americana worlds pack the three-day bill. As always, there are longtime crowd favorites as well as new-comers.

The artist I’m most looking forward to seeing is Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel (7 p.m. Saturday). Best known for his work in new age and jazz, Emmanuel was one of five guitarists bestowed the honor of Certified Guitar Player (CGP) by the late, great Chet Atkins in 1999. In fact, you could consider Emmanuel as Atkins’ primary disciple. He also carries the torch of another of Chet’s CGPs, the equally late, great Jerry Reed. Like Emmanuel, guitarist Trey Hensley incorporates heavy doses of Jerry Reed into his picking. Since Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley play immediately before Emmanuel at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, one can only assume these two string-bending aces will cut heads at some point.

Another headliner that I’m stoked about is Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (6 p.m. Sunday). Cleveland is one of the world’s top fiddlers and has the IBMA hardware to show. For fans of true high & lonesome bluegrass, Flamekeeper ranks among the best.

Others who return to Reservoir Hill include the Luke Bulla Trio, Tallgrass, the Giving Tree Band, Coral Creek and, of course, FY5.

I had the pleasure of hosting FY5 – the quartet formerly known as Finnders & Youngberg – on the KSUT’s Monday Afternoon Blend earlier this week for a live performance and chat. These guys (and gal) are regulars on the regional festival scene, having appeared at numerous Durango Bluegrass Meltdowns, the Four Corners Folk Festival and even last fall’s Meltdown on the Mesa. They’ve also become the unofficial house band of Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass, having appeared on the bill seven of the last eight years while teaching at the festival’s jam camp eight years in a row.

“It does kind of seem that way,” guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mike Finnders said of the house band analogy. “We do feel really fortunate to be involved with (festival promoters) Dan Appenzeller and Crista Munro and all the gang that throws this big festival ... all the folks that work that festival for years and years – the stage manager and the grounds crew and all that. It does kind of feel like coming back and the official kickoff of the summer. We look forward to it every year.”

Teaching adults and children of all ages and abilities at the Jam Camp is something FY5 truly cherishes, not just for the friendships born and the opportunity to pass along their love of acoustic music, but to see what truly goes on behind the scenes in putting on a festival.

“We kind of get to watch the whole festival be built up around us while we’re teaching,” singer/bassist Erin Youngberg said. “We’re part of that energy that builds to the weekend. It’s super fun.”

FY5 will be done with their work shortly after the gates open. Their lone main stage appearance is at 5:45 p.m. Friday, while their popular workshop on band arrangement takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday. Two old-timers from the Durango Meltdown Board of Directors, Elwin Johnston and Dan Peha, will again emcee the Workshop Stage, where a lot of the festival’s most intimate magic happens. I’ve sat front and center at FY5’s band arrangement workshop several times, and it’s a crash course in how a tune is born, from Finnders’ original words to solo demo recording to the application of different instrument parts to final recording sessions, mixing and, ultimately, live performances.

Tribute acts seem to be all the rage lately. So if you’re going to pay homage to one of your musical heroes, why not three? Pink Talking Fish plays the Animas City Theatre at 9 p.m. Wednesday. This crack quartet of jam band veterans (Richard James on key- boards, Zack Burwick on drums, Dave Brunyak on guitar and Eric Gould on bass) decided to tackle the respective catalogs of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish, mashing them up into an endless series of inventive combinations. Think “YEM>On the Run>YEM” or “Mike’s Song>Have a Cigar>Once in a Lifetime>Weekapaug Groove” and you get the point. In the past five years, they’ve developed a huge following through constant touring and festival appearances. Weminuche opens.

The ACT also presents Flobots, Astralogic and DIRTVeNT Rap Battle League at 9 p.m. Saturday. Flobots are a popular hip hop/indie rock band from Denver that has released four albums and a pair of EPs since forming in 2005.

The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering hosts its fourth annual barn dance and picnic in the park fundraiser from 5-8 p.m. Sunday at Rotary Park. The Tim Sullivan Band will headline, with special guest cowboy poet Lindy Simmons. Angus burgers and brats, side dishes, Cream Bean Berry ice cream, wine, beer and soft drinks will be for sale, or bring your own picnic, along with blankets or lawn chairs.

Black Velvet has a busy week, performing as a trio at the Derailed Pour House at 7 p.m. Friday, as a duo at Seven Rivers Steakhouse at the Sky Ute Casino Resort at 6 p.m. Saturday, as a trio at the Balcony Bar & Grill at 4 p.m. Sunday and as a duo at the Animas River Beer Garden at the DoubleTree Hotel at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The best thing I’ve heard this week is “Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass,” the latest offering from the Del McCoury Band. Now 79 years old, Del still has it ... while the band is as ripping as ever. The opening cut, “Hot Wired,” is the latest gem from the pen of Shawn Camp. It also features the third generation of McCoury’s grandson Heaven McCoury on electric guitar. It has a little bit of everything you’d expect from Del ... a murder ballad (“Deep Dark Hollow Road”), a lover’s lament (“Bottom Dollar”) and, of course, a train song (“That Ol’ Train”). Chances to see the Del McCoury Band are fewer and further between these days; fortunately, they’ll be at Telluride Bluegrass on June 21, likely premiering many of these new songs to legions of thirsty Delheads. Del yeah!

She might hotwire your Chevy? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.

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