Telluride Blues & Brews:The Groove Abides, Part #2, An Overvu

Telluride Blues & Brews:The Groove Abides, Part #2, An Overvu

The incomparable Otis Taylor

The incomparable Otis Taylor

The Telluride Blues and Brews Festival – this year celebrating its 20th year of bringing us late summer bliss – is like any multi-day festival in that it takes a little planning and a little homework to fully appreciate.

The brews part of the festival enjoys its bacchanalian peak on Saturday, September 14, when the weekend’s invited microbrewers host a grand tasting the likes of which surely makes hops vines tremble with anticipation. Suffice it to say, beer is good, and if you enjoy finely crafted beers and hooting your joy to the skies, your Saturday afternoon is set.

My expertise is music and when it comes to this or any festival, I look for the buried treasures in the line-up’s undercard. This festival has consistently blown my mind with artists utterly new to me, or those I’d never previously seen perform live. Here’s a day-by-day peek at your future new favorite bands, as well as a handful of well-loved returning artists.

Ease into the weekend with a scenic ride on the gondola to Mountain Village on Wednesday, September 11, where Colorado rock and rollers, The Congress, (see related post w/podcast) will headline the free Sunset Blues concert at 5 p.m.

Festival Head Schooner, Steve Gumble, is saying thank you for 20 great years with a free concert Thursday, September 12 in Town Park. No wristbands needed, just come at 4 p.m. and dig Austin’s Southern rock-tinged funky rockers, Bright Lights Social Club, Denver trance-blues artist Otis Taylor and his band and the legendary Booker T. Yes, for free. Newcomers can get a lay of the land and plan the next morning’s tarp run.

Friday, September 13 (yep, Friday the 13th!) and amazing day of musical discovery leads up to headliners, The Black Crowes.

Australian Kim Churchill opens the official festival with his groovy ocean blues. Bright Light Social Hour is back on stage next, followed by the sultry blues/hip-hop/soulful sounds of ZZ Ward. She calls her sound “dirty shine” and she’s gonna knock you to your knees.

Allen Stone is a soul singer whose passionate, socially conscious songs will have you swooning. He’s high on my list of “can’t wait to check it” artists this year. Gary Clark Jr.’s fuzzed-out, crunchy blend of blues, rock and psychedelia will be a treat for those looking for the next legendary guitarist in the rock-blues world. He’s phenomenal and the perfect opener for The Black Crowes. In between sets, when longtime festival emcees, Ashley Boling and Jeb Berrier aren’t peppering the crowd with their witty banter, English singer/songwriter James Bay will perform on the side stage.

Saturday morning at 11:15 a.m., follow the parade down Colorado Ave. to the festival grounds where, amid the clamor of the Grand Tasting, the winner of the International Blues Competition, The Selwyn Birchwood Band, will get things rolling. England’s exceedingly smooth funkmeisters, The New Mastersounds, will have you dancing, pronto, a dance party that won’t stop with next act, The Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans. Otis Taylor’s trance-blues will mesmerize, guaranteed. Mickey Hart, one of the Grateful Dead’s peerless drummer/percussionists, is an astute purveyor of deeply rhythmic, world grooves. His much-anticipated set will prepare the stage for headliner Jim James. Singer/songwriter Kim Churchill is Saturday’s side stage performer.

The tradition of rousing gospel music for your Sunday morning continues in the hands of The Relatives, whose founder, Rev. Gean West says, “If people won’t come to church, we’ll bring church to the people.” I never, ever miss the gospel set. It just feels so good to be in the presence of such spiritual joy.

A bevy of Telluride favorites will light the Fred Shellman Stage afire the rest of the day. Ferocious New Orleans guitar-slinger Anders Osborne, the high-watt funk of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and the incomparable John Hiatt with his band The Combo lead the way for headliners, Melissa Etheridge. (See related post & interview.) Throughout the day, singer/songwriter Valerie James and solo performer (what he does defies description) Low Volts are the side stage treats for you to discover!

Each night after the last act in the park, there are performers in the Juke Joint venues around town, so just live with the fact that you’ll sleep some other time. It’s a festival!

For a complete schedule, and artist bios please visit

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