Yarmony Grass Festival, 8.23 - 8.25.13


State Bridge
Bond, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)


Having made the drive to State Bridge once before, I knew I could expect beautiful scenery, a happening campground, a rowdy shuttle, some quality river time, great music, and a bit of fun. Having known the history of Yarmony, I also knew the weekend would be filled by with appearances by members of one of my favorite bands, String Cheese Incident. The temperature swings in Bond were drastic with shivering nights and smoldering days. I fought both with varying types of alcohol. The first night we arrived shortly after sunset, and set about making a campsite at Rancho del Rio with some friends. Once we joined tent city, we headed to the bus stop to catch the shuttle over to the stage.

Drew Emmitt's Joint Set featured Scott Law, Andy Thorn, and Keith Moseley, and had the crowd dancing hard to some speedy pickin'. They were one of my favorite acts of the weekend. I tend to like most of Drew Emmitt's work, and half expected their buddy Billy Nershi to sit in for a tune, but it never happened. I've seen Whiskey Tango numerous times in the last few years, and have genuinely enjoyed them every time. While I always had fun, I never felt like they broke much new ground. Rather, they learned how to go a million places, that had been previously explored by other bands, really well. Just because they weren't the most innovative band I've ever seen didn't mean they weren't fun. After Tango's set we returned to Rancho del Rio and continued to enjoy the company of the other attendees. The bus ride was drunken, loud, and funny. The bus driver reminded me of someone I couldn't quite place. Maybe Artie Lang? Either way, he was friendly, listened to good music, and wore a hat that said, "party like a rock star." His services were greatly appreciated... Getting us safely to and from the shows each day.

The night grew late quickly and I found myself shivering beneath the stars. I bundled up and crawled into my tent, determined to get some rest before Saturday commenced. Sure enough, the sun popped over the ridge line early, and I found myself wandering around Rancho with a new friend and two beers in hand. It was hot and the Sierra Nevada's were going down quicker than Aaron Hernandez. Before long, the campground was bustling with entrepreneurs, sailors, hippies, and more. The sun illuminated the surrounding ridges and gave me my first glimpse of how beautiful Rancho is in the daylight. By noon, I'd polished off as many beers as I typically have all night, and from there continued to get silly. Fortunately, I did pace myself, and therefor never really lost control, and generally just had a relaxing day with new friends and old. Then they broke out the moonshine. With the oppressive sun demanding our attention, we loped our way over to the river and took turns taking dips. Before long, the day was getting away from us, and we decided to catch the bus back to State Bridge.

It was a good thing we did, because we made it just in time to see The Recovery Act. If you haven't seen them, they play super tight funk and soul with an angelic beauty that belts out the vocals. From The Jackson 5 to Stevie Wonder, they nailed the funk with authority. With a vocalist like Lindsay French, it can be tough to see beyond her gorgeous smile and sultry sounds, but the band executed flawlessly, and matched her talent every step of the way. Chris Thompson and Coral Creek were up next and brought their familiar down home vibe to the stage. One of Golden, CO's musical keystones, Thompson and company have been largely responsible for free bluegrass performances by such great musicians as Billy Nershi, Scott Law, and more. When it comes to a local musician fostering live music appreciation within a community, Chris has proven to be a dedicated, humble, and valuable member of Colorado's vibrant music scene.

When the Drunken Hearts took the stage, they brought headliner confidence. Their playing was rehearsed, their energy was high, and they seemed to have as much fun as we did. The performance featured guest appearances by Bill Nershi and Scott Law. Frontman Andrew McConathy, not only knew how to play, he knew how to throw a party. Yarmony has been his baby since he all but reunited String Cheese Incident in 2008, and while the festival has changed locations and size, it still had the love that made it a success in the first place.

Speaking of String Cheese Incident... The real reason I went was because the curiosity was killing me. EOTO with Billy Nershi sounded halfway promising, and halfway preposterous. It turned out to be a little of each. To start, the band seemed to be having issues getting their sound dialed in. Nershi, Travis, and Hann all looked frustrated, and I hoped they would be able to lose the negative energy before they launched into their lengthy improv-only set. Eventually they started playing, and the set began with an upbeat funky jam. Nershi played slide, Travis played a lot of bass, and Hann simply killed a drum kit for over two hours. I was never the biggest EDM fan, but from a technical standpoint, Jason Hann put on quite the percussion clinic. Travis was remarkably good at bass too. But the addition of a goggle wearing guitar player named Bill Nershi was what really made the show unique. EOTO took Nershi's musical preferences into account and played a much airier, spacier, show than usual. While I wouldn't say it was the best show I've seen, it wasn't the worst either. On a couple occasions I was reminded of the Horning's Hideout ritual sets. The free flowing musical energy intertwined with the crowd and new friends were made. Ultimately, it felt more like more of a gathering of kindred spirits than an attention-demanding musical performance.

That was, perhaps, the best thing about Yarmony. The bands, the fans, and the staff were generally a friendly bunch. People shared the sentiment as people exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. And while those words have been hollow in the past, this time things seemed more genuine.

Brad's Photo Gallery

www.yarmonygrass.com

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