Stay calm and folk on
KSUT streams virtual Four Corners Folk Festival this Friday

Stay calm and folk on

Alice Wallace, left, and Caitlin Cannon perform a set to a crowd-less lawn at Reservoir Hill last week./Courtesy photo

Chris Aaland - 09/03/2020
by Chris Aaland
 
It was a rough spring and summer for festivarians. Every single music gathering was cancelled due to the pandemic. For me, it was especially brutal. I typically attend 10-12 festivals per year in Durango, Telluride, Pagosa Springs, Lyons and beyond. That meant 30-40 days per year spent on my tarp or in my campsite. Thirty days.
 
The author in his element
Think about that. Thirty days of making new friends, meeting old ones and getting away from the stress of work.  
In a couple of those years, I found my way to Town Park for all four major Telluride music festivals – Bluegrass, Blues & Brews, Jazz and The Ride. I’d attended Telluride Bluegrass every year since 1997 and Meltdown every year since 2000; 12 of 14 Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrasses; 10 Four Corners Folk Festivals; and all of the Ska anniversary parties. There were others – Silverton Jubilee, Silverton Jamboree, San Juan Brewfest, Aztec Highland Games, Durango Cowboy Gathering, Durango Independent Film Festival, Mancos Valley Brewfest, Pine River Brewfest, KSUT’s Party in the Park, KOTO Doo-Dahs, Rockygrass, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival … and more that I’m surely forgetting.  

I was saddened (but not surprised) to hear that next year’s Snowdown was cancelled. I’m waiting to hear what will happen with spring highlights like the Durango Independent Film Festival (February), Durango Celtic Gathering (March) and Durango Bluegrass Meltdown (April). Will the venues they utilize survive? We’ve already lost the Henry Strater Theatre and Irish Embassy. A handful of other music bars and theatres are in limbo during the times of social distancing.  

Virtual events began springing up from the beginning. Back in April, I put together a two-hour Virtual Meltdown for the KSUT airwaves that featured nearly every artist that would have been on the Meltdown’s lineup. It was a cathartic experience for the festival’s board members and fans, but especially for me. I’ve been involved in that festival as an emcee or volunteer for nearly 20 years and felt a certain sense of ownership – even though I’ve never been a board member.  

Through the summer and through my roles as development director and DJ at KSUT, I got involved in numerous other virtual events, including June’s Virtual Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrass, which included live, hour-long sets by Lucinda Williams and Tim O’Brien; the Community Foundations Concerts in Your Secret Garden for three straight Wednesdays in July; the Virtual Party in the Park, which culled live recordings from the past five years of midsummer classics in Buckley Park; and the Virtual Four Corners Folk Festival, which airs on Facebook Live and KSUT airwaves from 7-9 Friday evening.  

I’ve also watched or listened to numerous other virtual festivals and concerts this summer, including those from KOTO, Planet Bluegrass and Grey Fox. With each, I drew inspiration. KOTO taught me how to incorporate live bootlegs into an on-air celebration; Planet Bluegrass showed you could use the festival’s actual stage to shoot performances; and Grey Fox taught the lesson of brevity by alternating between full archival sets and new, in-studio videos or Facebook Live performances that were one or two songs in length.
  
Virtual Four Corners combines elements of both Planet Bluegrass and Grey Fox. Internationally known artists like Michael Franti, Tommy Emmanuel and Rising Appalachia recorded short sets for us. These will flank lengthier sets that we shot on Reservoir Hill last week from StillHouse Junkies, Caitlin Cannon and Alice Wallace. The final two-hour package will also include a host of KSUT emcees in between bands and a traditional Ute blessing of the festival grounds from Eddie and Betty Box. 
 
It was a remarkable afternoon a week ago on Reservoir Hill when Drew Semel set his four cameras to shoot and Scott “Scooter” Smith rolled tape on the performances. We asked each artist to perform the same 25-minute set back-to-back, so that Semel could reset his cameras from different angles. The finished product will include close-ups, far-away shots, scenic views of the South San Juans and even aerial footage from a drone. For nearly two hours, I sat alone in the meadow on Reservoir Hill beyond the video cameras and away from others who had gathered. I donned my festival hat, popped the top on a few Breckenridge beers, and watched and listened. 

Over in the trees southeast of the stage gathered about a dozen folks who were part of Dan Appenzeller and Crista Munro’s festival crew for the past two-and-a-half decades. They were there to eulogize Dan as much as they were to catch the act, as Appenzeller had died of cancer a week earlier. 

KSUT went all in, creating festival T-shirts to commemorate the summer that wasn’t – one that encourages folks to “Stay Calm and Folk On” in a COVID-19 mask on the front. The back lists the full lineups of the two Reservoir Hill festivals that would’ve been. These will be available through the station’s Fall Membership Drive (Sept. 14-18) and through PayPal and online donations during the virtual event.  

You can stream video and audio through the station’s website (www.ksut.org), on Facebook Live, or on the airwaves. Eventually, the performances will be archived online. 

Contrast this with the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, which plows through town at full steam, pandemic be damned, this weekend. While it’s a fraction of the size of Sturgis, simple math proves the virus will be spread by the event. They’ve done a remarkable job of building a full slate of events for the weekend in times of uncertainty and political division. It’s safe to say many of us don’t want to see them here and won’t be heading into town during the rally. It’s equally safe to assume many want to see it happen – particularly small business owners who are struggling to keep the doors open.  

All you can do is hope they come, have fun, stay safe and patronize our local establishments … and that we continue to keep COVID cases low in La Plata County. For those who are masking up and respecting personal space when shopping, I thank you and willingly do the same for you. For those who aren’t? I’ll let your imagination create the scowl under my mask. 
 
Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.

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