After another remarkable weekend at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival it is easy to understand why this event is one of the region’s most popular music celebrations. In a town that plays host to a multitude of festivals each summer,Telluride Blues and Brews stands out for its remarkable line-ups, flawless execution, and encouragement of character.
Last Friday night was the “Sharp Dressed Fan Contest” where festival goers could win weekend passes for next year’s festival by donning the best costume for that night’s headliner, ZZ Top. Plenty of people went above and beyond just donning ‘cheap sunglasses’. This was a great way to get the crowd excited for that ‘little ol’ band from Texas,’ ZZ Top. The crowd didn’t need much encouragement as it was buzzing with energy before they took the stage. Everyone moved forward to get a glimpse of the legendary group as they opened with Got Me Under Pressure and continued to rock through some of their classics like Waitin’ for the Bus, and Jesus Just Left Chicago. All of Town Park sang along as they played the well-known tune I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide. Telluride’s altitude of 8,750 feet didn’t seem to be affecting the lowland band as they continued to rock through the night ending with not just one, but two encores. They sent the crowd home with a cover of Merle Travis’ Sixteen Candles.
Luckily the music didn’t stop once the last band left Town Park stage. From there, festival goers fled to the Juke Joint shows taking place at various venues around town. Only in its second year, the Blues Stage located in the Hanley Pavilion hosted Houma, Louisiana blues artist Tab Benoit followed by Rich Robinson Friday night. The spacious venue holds stadium style movie theater seating in the back—a perfect way to accommodate those who want to be up close to dance, and offer seating to those who are tired from dancing all day in the sun. Both artists put on solid performances closing out a great first day to the festival.
Saturday had the biggest attendance thanks to the Grand Tasting. This year, 56 breweries participated with over 170 different beers to try. There seemed to be hops everywhere in hats, backpacks, even worn around the neck! This year’s best of fest went to Roaring Fork Beer Company, a returning champion.
Saturday’s lineup was so energetically entertaining it’s hard to narrow down a highlight. Austin group, Bright Light Social Hour, kicked off the day to an engaged audience. This was their second time playing the festival and they did not disappoint. San Francisco based band, Monophonics played an incredible set vivaciously belting out soulful tunes that echoed off the box canyon walls. Adding to their performance was French special guest, Ben I’Oncle. His smooth voice, a combination of Bob Marley and John Legend, slowed the band down into a nice deep rhythm. Perineal favorite Anders Osborne rocked the stage with his gritty New Orleans blues. Eric McFadden played some incredible riffs while John Gros, formerly of Papa Grows Funk, laid down some killer New Orleans piano lines. No mention of this show would be complete without highlighting Carl Dufrene’s hard hitting bass work. Dufrene passionately plays bass with his entire body, pounding out an undeniable foot stomping sound while Ander never fails to deliver both on guitar and vocals. The band was just as pleased with their performance as the crowd was beaming ear to ear in pure happiness as the crowd went wild.
Next up, the Queen of Soul herself, Miss Sharon Jones was backed up by The Dap-Kings. Emerging on stage in a gold sequin top and iridescent teal trousers, she set the scene to blow attendees away with her incredible vocals. Soul music produced a full sound elevating the crowd to new heights. Once again, festival goes exited town park ecstatic after the incredible day of music they had seen.
Sunday brought gospel music. The festival opened with the Blind Boys of Alabama followed by Leo “Bud” Welch—both legends in their own right. The Blind Boys of Alabama performed their blend of traditional and contemporary gospel, and Leo “Bud” Welch brought authentic rural Mississippi blues sound, hard to find outside of the south. One festival favorite came later in the afternoon, New Orleans band, The Revivalists, took the stage. This energetic group blends funky New Orleans horns with ragtime keys and strong vocals. Their performance is what sets them apart as each player is engaged. Energetic and lively, they had the crowd moving shaking and throwing their hands in the air.
Bringing the crowd back to their bluesy roots was Legendary blues musician Taj Mahal with his group, the Taj Mahal Trio. Performances like these keep Blues and Brews authentic and music fans coming back year after year. This was not the last time we saw Taj on stage.
Finishing out the evening was Gregg Allman. He opened the show with I’m No Angel and swapped between playing the organ and guitar performing songs like Melissa, Whipping Post, and Midnight Rider. The highlight of the night was Taj Mahal sitting in to whom Allman credited with getting him into the “boogie business.” They performed a favorite of The Allman Brothers Band, Statesboro Blues, written by Blind Willie McTell. Allman’s performance was back by a fantastic band including Marc Quinones, percussionist of the Allman Brothers, as well as a keyboardist, lead guitarist, drummer and horn section. The horn section offered a nice diversity to his sound playing riffs on the sax that Allman typically does vocally. While remaining bluesy it produced a rounder, fuller and more soulful sound. He closed out his set with Dickie Betts’ tune Southbound.
The performances on Sunday were a perfect way to round out the festival. A little more down tempo and relaxed, everyone left a little more kicked back and satisfied with the weekend of music they had experienced. From Juke Joints to Town Park Stage, there is no lack of talent at Telluride Blues and Brews 2015 was the best year yet and will have some tough competition to follow. Cheers!