DAY 3: The 25th Annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival – Planet Bluegrass, Lyons Aug 19-21


:: Folks Festival ::

:: Planet Bluegrass, Lyons ::

August 21

Photos by Josh Elioseff

Words by Nichole Wagner

The final morning began with a celebratory set called “Honoring 25 Years of Folks Festival” featuring dozens of musicians with deep ties to the festival community (Sally Truitt, Amy Speace, Paul Reisler, Planet Bluegrass’ Brian Eyster and Steve Szymanski, Annie Wenz, Steve Seskin, Tom Prasada-Rao, and Mai Bloomfield).  Classically-trained Heather Maloney conjured festivals past with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” during her set.

San Francisco-based The Family Crest used their energetic 7-piece orchestral band to get the crowd up and dancing to “Sell Yourself Lightly” and singing along to the chorus of “As We Move Forward” before ending with “Make Me a Boat.”

The Waifs also faced rain during their set, but they still kept the audience riveted, with Donna Simpson encouraging parents to let their kids dance in the rain instead of hiding under umbrellas.   The set list included tunes (“Born to Love,” “6,000 Miles,” and “February”) from their new record Beautiful You but remained well-rounded with classics like “Lighthouse” and “Highway One.”

The Wood Brothers were a crowd-pleaser, with their wide breadth of styles and danceable tunes.  Their nod to The Band’s “Ophelia” ended the set with dueling guitar and bass riffs that left the grounds shaking.

In addition to the main-stage sets, the Wildflower Pavilion offered fans a respite from the heat and rain by hosting a variety of shows including Song School instructors (Rj Cowdery, Arthur Lee Land, Caroline Spence, Justin Roth, Vance Gilbert, Rebecca Folsom, Robby Hecht, Tom Wasinger, and Ellis) and the Songwriter Showcase finalists (Maria Brosgol, Brad Cunningham, Drew Kennedy, Nicholas Williams, Joel Ansett, Justina Schandler, Ira Wolf, Jami Lynn, Carter Sampson, and Ben Shannon) performing in the round.

Master guitarist Richard Thompson played a solo set, opening with “Bathsheba Smile” before launching into the upbeat “Valerie.” Fan favorite “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” with its story of the ill-fated James and his beloved Red Molly, was placed early in the set before “Dry My Tears and Move On” and his “last hit… in the folk-rock dinosaur world we don’t count hits” from 1973, “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.”  This was followed by a tribute to Sandy Denny, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”  He also gave a tongue-in-cheek nod to an American who was running for President and developing land around Scotland for golf courses and hotels with “Fergus Lang” before ending with “Persuasion,” “I Misunderstood,” and the polka-themed sing-along encore “Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands.”

Returning for their 5th main-stage appearance, festival closers Gillian Welch and David Rawlings hit the stage with “Wayside Back in Time” and accolades for both the festival and Richard Thompson’s set.  Since it was the anniversary of Elvis’ death, they played “Elvis Presley Blues,” telling stories about college celebrations with fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and bacon.  Having heard Tom Jones’ version earlier in the day, Gillian got lost in the song and missed a verse. “I never thought I’d have to process Tom Jones singing one of my songs!” Asking if the crowd had heard enough banjo, the duo launched into “Rock of Ages” before “squandering any momentum” they had built up with the downer “Throw Me a Rope” and the “faster and sadder” “Way It Goes.”  Just before “I Want to Play That Rock n Roll,” a large bug took up residence on Dave’s back. Since the insect apparently wanted to join the band, they dubbed him “Hobo Joe” and let him sit in on the rest of the set. Taking a moment to allow for the tuning of her Gibson, Gill borrowed Dave’s signature 1935 Epiphone archtop and played “Wildwood Flower,” noting that it’s “not quite the ferocious beast” when it’s not in his hands.  The “Pikes Peak of the good times” came in the form of “Red Clay Halo,” the tune about a “farm boy who just can’t get clean” and “Six White Horses,” with Gill playing hand percussion to Dave’s banjo and harmonica.  Other songs rounding out the main set included “Orphan Girl” (along with a nod to this tune as being a major reason that they were first asked to play back Folks Fest back in 1997), “Look at Miss Ohio,” and a “good killing song” “Caleb Meyer.” They noted that there are many festivals around the world and that performers talk to each other, comparing notes about the good and the bad, but that the Planet Bluegrass people are some of the best around.  Encores were Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and what was perhaps the highlight of the festival-a full audience-participation rendition of the traditional gospel number “I’ll Fly Away” that left spirits soaring.  It set the stage perfectly for Gillian’s final words of the Festival, “Here’s to another 25 years!”

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