Telluride Bluegrass: Shane Koyczan & The Long Short Story, Sunday “Gospel Set”

Telluride Bluegrass: Shane Koyczan & The Long Short Story, Sunday “Gospel Set”

The 43rd annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival unofficially kicks off  June 15 with FirstGrass in Mountain Village, then continues through Sunday, June 19.  Single day tickets are still available for Thursday and Sunday here. Full schedule here.

His poetry speaks to us as directly and unequivocally as a STOP sign.

It stops us dead in our tracks.

Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan.

Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan.

At the same time it moves us surely and steadily to the top of the tallest peak.

The direction is up.

Sometimes heartbreakingly, but always unrelentingly up.

His words are variations on the theme of the Nike slogan: “Just do it.”

Pep talks for young people, like him, victims of bullying.

He talks about the birds and bees – in hopes of saving our Pale Blue Marble.

His words unapologetically air our dirty laundry, but still give us hope and the belief change is possible.

How do I know?

Before writing those words, I listened to his.

Just a few of his endless and endlessly dazzling talks on You Tube.

And Shane Koyczan blew me away.

Opened my heart.

He did the same to a crowd of more than 1 billion people worldwide, who heard his piece “We are More,” at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.


And he will again when Shane Koyzcan and his band, The Short Story Long, open the closing day, Sunday, July 19, of the 43rd annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival with the “gospel” set.

Guaranteed you like I will become a true believer.

But get in line.

“Shane is a virtuoso of spoken word with astonishing creative control of rhyme and rhythm and sound, but always in the service of profound stories and rich emotions. No performer has ever made me laugh, cry, and smile in awe as much as Shane. Yes, this all sounds hyperbolic, but just you wait: if you give Shane & The Short Story Long your focus you will never forget their set. They’ve played our Folks Festival in Lyons twice and both time seceived multiple long standing ovations and became among our most talked-about sets in recent memory. After his sets, Festivarians sought out Shane just to give him a hug and be in his presence,” Brian Eyster, Planet Bluegrass.

“Homer must have sounded [like this]… or Ginsberg or Kerouac,” Amy Brown, The Lumiere Reader.

“Shane Koyczan is at the heart of a Category Five creative hurricane,” The Vancouver Sun.

“A symbol of hope …Canada’s best known spoken word poet” CBC The National.

Who is the avatar known as Shane Koyzcan?

(The avatar reference is pre-technological: it means a rare embodiment of culture and art.)


Shane is often compared to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Downie, and Leonard Cohen because his words are as profound and relevant to his generation, to these times, as theirs were – and remain – to their generation.

But unlike those iconic musicians, his antecedents, poets rarely infiltrate pop culture.

But Shane is not strictly speaking a poet.

He is a spoken-word virtuoso and author of three books –  “Stickboy,” “Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty” and “Visiting Hours” – plus a graphic novel, “Silence Is A Song I Know All The Words To,” released in 2014.

Shane is also librettist, who collaborated with the Vancouver Opera to turn “Stickboy” into an opera.

At his award-winning spoken-word performances, his rhythmic verse in high gear, Shane leads the audience through social and political territory with a furious honesty and a tender humanity that has brought crowds to their feet in New York, London, Edinburgh, Sydney, Stockholm, and Los Angeles – and shortly in Telluride.

With The Short Story Long, Shane breathes life into the new genre of talk rock

The band creates a musical backdrop that blends folk, classical, and rock, musical analogs to Shane’s pearls.

Together they have released several albums, including the viral hit (seen by 19 million peeps) “To This Day,” which explores the anguish of anyone who grew up feeling different or just a little bit alone.

To bring visual life to this image-rich poem, Shane invited artists from around the world to contribute 20-second segments of animation to the project. Posted on YouTube on February 19, 2013, by the close of the month the video had been viewed six million times.

Shane & The Short Story Long

Shane & The Short Story Long

Most recently Shane and The Short Story Long collaborated on “Debris,” released in 2015.

“It’s so colossal, both in size and emotion heft, that it requires repeated listens to even begin the process of absorbing and parsing its contents. As he dissects himself and his feelings, Koyczan goes so deep as to turn the personal into the universal, giving voice to truths, both beautiful and hideous, all humans feel somewhere in our bones. 
“Koyczan’s a poet, in the purest sense of the word. He’s not a singer, nor is he a stand-up comedian, but he exists somewhere in between the two. His rhythmic, singsong voice jumps seamlessly between dire seriousness and joyous playfulness, breathing life into his poetry. Backing troupe the Short Long Story, along for the ride once again, provide the perfect sonic grounding for Koyczan’s words, augmenting the feeling when needed and cradling into the background when the words need some extra space to breathe,…” raved

Shane is clearly an extraordinary talent who has blown the dust off of the traditional designation “poet.”

Or as The Metro put it:  “Poetry isn’t a problem when it’s this cool.”

“Shane & The Short Story Long are performing our ‘gospel’ set, taking it all into uncharted territory for us. But when we think of ‘inspiring,’ an important criteria for the Telluride Bluegrass’s gospel set, Shane’s performances are as powerful and stirring as any of the other performers in the rich history of those very special sets,” concluded Eyster.




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