:: June 20, 2014 ::
:: Day 2 ::
Photos by Josh Elioseff
Text by Andrew Martin
Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCourys
The Travelin’ McCourys are the perfect backing band for a player like Keller Williams. They have a strong foundation in traditional bluegrass music from years playing with Del, but they’re also well-rounded enough musicians to push the genre-bending music that has become the hallmark of a Keller Williams show.
As always, Keller played an eclectic array of covers, including Float On (Modest Mouse), Candyman (Grateful Dead), and Hot Stuff (Donna Summer). Keller added his unique touches to these tunes, truly making them his own.
The highlight of the set was an original tune called Bumper Sticker. The song is an ode to the great bluegrass players who defined the genre and was inspired by a bumper sticker Keller once came across. Near the end of the song, Del McCoury came out to sing a verse, reprising his guest appearance on the recording of the song for Keller’s 2012 album, Pick. As soon as the verse was done, Del disappeared from the stage. The crowd went wild. It was really great to see Del share the stage with his sons as a guest rather than as their band leader. He seemed to enjoy it as much as the crowd.
Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott
Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott played a perfect set for the brutally hot conditions on Friday afternoon. The best way to describe the music was beautiful. They serenaded us with mellow, soulful songs and beautiful vocal harmonies that were perfect for relaxing on a hot summer day. But be careful not to take it too easy during their set. It wasn’t napping music. There were still plenty of moments showcasing big solos building to dramatic crescendos.
Witnessing a Legend (Dave Rawlings Machine)
Dave Rawlings has compiled a pretty impressive lineup for his band, the Dave Rawlings Machine. He’s joined by folk singer Gillian Welch, Punch Brothers bassist Paul Kowert, and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Willie Watson. Oh, and they have a mandolin player named John Paul Jones. You might have heard of him. He played in some rock band called Led Zeppelin back in the day.
The band was great. They played a set of mellow, soulful songs with great vocal harmonies and top notch musicianship. Every member of this band is tremendous and accomplished in their own right, and it was great to see them all. That being said, it was such a treat to watch a legend like John Paul Jones. I’ve now seen 2 of the 3 living members of Zeppelin, and both times it has been on the main stage at Telluride Bluegrass. That speaks volumes about the depth of this festival.
The music was captivating all night, and built to a strong finish with covers of Bob Dylan’s Queen Jane Approximately and Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer. Cortez the Killer was beautiful, showcasing John Paul Jones’ chops and incredible phrasing on mandolin.
However, the highlight of their set came when they encored with Going to California. Dave Rawlings hit all the high notes, and this is a very difficult song to sing. The entire crowd was singing along and bursting with excitement. For me, it was by far the best moment of the entire weekend. I think that 10 years from now, people will still be talking about John Paul Jones playing mandolin on Going to California. It was that powerful of a moment.
Stuck in a Traffic Jam (Steve Winwood)
Steve Winwood closed out Friday night, delivering a high energy set featuring a heavy dose of Traffic tunes. As someone who listened to a lot of Traffic when I was younger, this was right up my alley. Winwood’s band featured several multi-instrumentalists. When he switched from guitar to Hammond B3 organ, the organ player picked up the sax, and the bass player switched to guitar. This rotation added a great dynamic to the music.
Winwood played classics such as Rainmaker, Medicated Goo (highly appropriate for a Colorado show), Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Empty Pages, Gimme Some Lovin’, and Can’t Find My Way Home.
The highlight was a monstrous Light Up or Leave Me Alone. This song jammed pretty hard from start to finish. After every extended solo, they would transition into a big “Light up!” refrain. It was a really powerful way to end solos and provided a strong hook before they launched into the next solo. This was probably my favorite set of the weekend.
Late Night at Yonder and Later Night Town Park Jam
After Steve Winwood was done, I caught the second set of Yonder’s Sheridan Opera House Nightgrass show. Once again, Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter were featured guests for the entire night. But this show included several other special guests. John Frazier (mandolin), Stephen Mougin (guitar), and Scott Vestal (banjo) sat in for almost the entire second set. For much of the night, they were spread out across the stage in a straight line, creating an impressive presence. With an 8-piece band, there were quite a few energetic and inspired jams throughout the set. I really enjoyed the banjo polka tune they played.
When we got back to Town Park, I grabbed my melodica and went to find some jam sessions to join. There was a raging jam in process at a friend’s camp. My guess is there were about 10 players, and everyone was rocking out. It was by far the most spirited jam session I participated in all weekend long. The music raged on well past 4 am, and when I ran into those guys the next day, we were all still energized by the late night jam.