Telluride Blues & Brews Festival has been delivering expressive music to this gorgeous mountain town annually for two decades now, but it’s not just the lineup that left me with newfound appreciation for the fest. From the moment I arrived (after a tumultuous day of flight delays, rain and other travel hiccups) it was all smiles, as I explored the streets with a beautiful mountainous backdrop. Strangers asked if I needed directions (I did), and the entire town was welcoming and buzzing about the festival. Although the town is as much a destination alone, the music (and beers!) certainly deserved the spotlight it received this weekend. Here were some of my favorite moments.
I’d already been sold on Allen Stone’s soulful voice (especially paired with his unassuming appearance), but even after countless views of his fantastic live videos I’d somehow gotten this far into festival season without seeing his performance in-person. After my dicey day of travel, I puddle-jumped my way onto the festival grounds in time to hear Stone’s performance come to an energetic start, and even with the damp weather it was clear the audience shared my eagerness. Wailing through a set peppered with covers, a highlight was watching couples of all ages jam to a cover of Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good.” Stone panted his way through the steamy song like an old pro as many in the crowd grabbed their significant others and belted along with the lyrics.
Missing James Bay’s early set was a big disappointment, so I can’t describe my delight when it was announced the singer-songwriter, in from across the pond, would play a few songs during the set change between Stone and Gary Clark, Jr. And charm he did—anyone familiar with Bay’s recent release The Dark of the Morning surely wasn’t disappointed with the simple, stunning set-up of acoustic guitar and vocals. Although the performance only lasted a few songs, Bay’s clear connection with the audience and mastery of the basics made me more determined to catch him live again soon. On another note, I loved that the festival had this side-stage performance scheduled during set changes instead of house music: it certainly exposed Bay’s music to a larger audience of potential new fans, and as an audience member I could keep my spot and still enjoy continuous live music. I’d love to see more fests follow suit.
Gary Clark, Jr.
If you’re been paying attention to live music this year, you’re attending any Gary Clark, Jr. performance with a set of high expectations. Clark didn’t disappoint, and it seemed no one was too cool to get down to the bluesy music. Bodies were moving from the front row to the side stage crowd to the security guards and the fans on the outskirts, and Clark’s casual, humble air in front of a clearly adoring crowd (several times you could hear a fan shout “We’re here for YOU, Gary!”) made his other-wordly talents on the guitar even more incredible.
The Black Crowes
Although it’s obvious that The Black Crowes are going to deliver exactly the kind of captivating rock show that catapulted them to popularity in the ‘90s, my favorite part of their performance at Telluride was seeing the way guitarist Jackie Greene fit into the band’s dynamic. It was clear from his first guitar solo that he can hold his own with these guys on-stage, and through fan favorites like “She Talks To Angels” and even closer, hit “Hard to Handle,” Greene’s inclusion in the band’s current lineup had my rapt attention for the entirety of the performance.