YarmonyGrass 8.15 - 8.17.14

Rancho Del Rio
Bond, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)
Videos By Steve Wilner

Friday August 15th:

Rancho Del Rio is a Colorado paradise, nestled in and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. The Colorado River runs right through the site, making it the perfect launch and landing point for rafters looking to spend some time on the river. Once a year, the site is transformed into festival grounds for YarmonyGrass, a three day music and camping festival featuring some incredible Colorado and national talent. The night prior to our departure from Denver, we picked up our friend Roosevelt Collier (The Lee Boys & Colorado Get Down) from Denver International Airport. Back at the house, my good friend Murray and my girlfriend, Carly, were preparing for that weekend's YarmonyGrass and the following weekend's Burning Man. There were supplies strewn throughout the house heading towards large bins and their eventual place on a river or Playa. The following morning we awoke, packed up our vehicles and headed west passing through the foot hills and into the mountains. The sun was shinning, we were all in good spirits and we made good time, pulling onto the property sometime around 2:00 PM to be met by a massive rainfall near State Bridge. As quickly as it came, it went and by the time we hit Rancho, a mere four miles down the road, the sun had returned and the party began.

The obtaining of our credentials was smooth and pleasent, as we parked and began unpacking the vehicles at a rapid pace to ensure ample camping. Tents rose from the ground up with a couple of EZ-Ups and Murray's tee-pee providing community shelter as Wichita Run could be heard in the distance. With the set up complete, it was time to crack open a cold beer and fire up some of Colorado's finest crop. Our first walk around the site reflected more infrastructure, more stages and more vending options than in previous years. Our group was impressed and excited about the potential of what would take place. Fort Collins' SHEL took the stage to kick off the weekend's sets on the Chief Yarmony (main stage). Though their turnout was dismal, their sound was sweet and their harmonies smooth.

Following some Frisbee tossing we made our way to the Gravity Lounge which was a dome with fabric draped along the sky and soft purple carpet lining the ground. The vibe was really unique and calming as Roosevelt and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) began their workshop. What followed was a barrage of notes and improvisational excellence from two heavy-hitters. As a train passed through the canyon across the river, Roosevelt teased the sound of the train's whistle on the lap steel. Fans laid on the carpet under the dome and fabric for an hour that ended with a lot of laughs and excitement. We passed by Gipsy Moon, who sounded great, on our way back to camp to refresh our beers and stash the lap steel. Back at camp the space around us had quickly filled in as additional friends and festival goers flooded into Rancho.

We returned to the venue to catch Wicked Messengers featuring Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufman of Yonder Mountain String Band, as well as Darol Anger and John Frazier. The quartet was strong as they dove into material from Yonder, some traditionals and covers. Towards the end of their set they called out a handful of special guests that included Allie Kral, Andy Thorn and John Skehan III (Railroad Earth) for some energetic jamming! A short in between set from Coral Creek at the Yarmony Creek Saloon resulted in Roosevelt Collier's "Colorado Get Down" on the Chief Yarmony stage to follow. The mixed group comprised of members of The Motet, Leftover Salmon and The Grant Farm came out swinging with thick funk. Throughout the set, the core group was joined by Allie Kral, Tim Carbone and The Motet Horns as special guests that helped elevate the already incredible set. At the end of the set Roosevelt announced the return of "Colorado Get Down" to Denver in November, this time at the 1up - Colfax!

Our group headed back to camp for another refill as Musketeer Gripweed took to the Yarmony Creek Saloon. Around this time things started getting loose in the campgrounds as the hilarity of the banter progressed. Bottles of whiskey were passed around as if it were water in the desert. We made our way back to the venue through the darkness where Appalachia Rising was performing a beautiful, but slower set of music. The harmonies were amazing as the music jumped between traditional and progressive. In the back of the field a large group had joined Murray in giving flight to his glow-in-the dark Frisbee. A bonfire came to life with sparks coming off of the fire to dance among the stars. The side of the Milky Way extended from horizon to horizon as shooting stars dashed across the sky.

Life was good as the evening's headliner, The Motet, took the stage. What followed was an about an hour of deep funk that included many of the band's new tracks as well as a few older tracks. Though the music was top notch, the set was plagued with sound issues. I will give it to the band, they tried to stick with it as the sound went out on multiple occasions. Eventually, they were forced to step off of the stage for five minutes to regroup. Upon their return, the funk continued until the set's conclusion. All in all, the scenario was disappointing considering The Motet was Friday's headliner. As the evening grew later, the environment got weirder and weirder. Back in the campgrounds, fireworks were being shot off and beats could be heard in between instruments picking in the distance. Some time in the wee hours of the morning, our Friday came to a close.

Saturday August 16th:

The mild heat of the sun awoke us to another day on the river. Rising Appalachia had an extensive session at the Gravity Lounge as we acquired coffee and breakfast tacos from the Cilantro Truck. A short time later, with beers in hand, we made our way to the farthest point up river within the festival site and jumped onto our inner tubes in the ice cold mountain water. After about ten rounds of floating we were joined by Roosevelt, who floated with us as we splashed ice cold water his way. A short time later we made our way down to KK's BBQ near the entrance to Rancho, where Murray awaited an extensive order with friends. On the other end of Rancho, Coral Creek took the main stage for an early set that sounded good and welcomed a handful of guests, however it boasted limited attendance.

Roosevelt's recommendation of the Gandhi Indian Cuisine food vendor translated to my first epic chicken tikka masala dish of the weekend. We dined and soaked up the sun as yoga was happening in the Gravity Lounge and Bill Nershi took the Chief Yarmony stage for a solo set. Our interests quickly shifted from Bill back to the river for more floating. Upon our return, Kevin Watson & friends was performing at The Yarmony Creek Saloon, with some great special guests. Back at camp, beer had turned to liquor and preparations for the evening began with some early non-sense and a change into warmer clothes. As the clock read 7:30 PM, Andrew McConathy and The Drunken Hearts took to the main stage for their slot. Throughout their hour and fifteen minute set the Drunken Hearts welcomed several guests including Andy Thorn, Roosevelt Collier and Allie Kral for some diverse and energetic compositions and jams. The Drunken Hearts were the Saturday festival highlight.

The Shockenaw Mountain Boys feat. members of Railroad Earth and Allie Kral took the stage next for a very celtic and traditional set. The music was beautiful, though the energy was a little bit slower than what many would have desired for an evening perfomance. Keeler William's Grateful Grass followed with a mixed group of musicians following Keller's lead and trying to keep up with his random changes and stops. The set was rhythmic and loose, though at times a lot of fun. Guests included Allie Kral, Andy Thorn, Roosevelt Collier and Bill Nershi. Back in the campgrounds things were getting wild and rumors of Bill Nershi drinking out of a bottle of tequila were circulating. The sentiment was that it would be an interesting and sloppy "Joint Set."

The set began with Bill and Roosevelt alone on stage, with Bill strumming along and Roosevelt trying to nail down a key while trying to hear his rig. It was a terrible start to what ended up being an extremely disappointing set. Through disjointed picking, weak sound and missed notes left and right, many of the guests tried to save the epic trainwreck, all be it, unsuccessfully. Bottles of whiskey and tequila floated around the stage as the plane headed towards the mountain. Sideways glances lead to a few musicians not wanting to return to the stage. Billy's slurred speech and inability to remember a few of the names of folks around him, made it clear that a day of drinking liquor had caught up to him. That being said, there are two sides of the coins and many interpreted what had happened as a group of friends just drinking and having a good time. Ultimately, people paid for the product and what was output, was unacceptable. We made our way back to camp, communicating our disappointment while others passed by talking about how "magical" and "incredible" the set was. Fireworks lit up the night sky as campfires erupted and music poured out of the camps. Again, in the early hours of the morning, things began to quiet down as one by one, folks climbed into their popped up shelters.

Sunday August 17th:

We awoke, surprisingly feeling no worse for wear. Early risers had already started tearing down their camps and heading out as the layout of the land started to revert back to an open field. Garbage cans and recycling containers overflowed as the weekend's waste was collected. We wiped our eyes and headed over to the venue for coffee and an array of tacos, masala, gyros and more. The YarmonyGrass Allstars set turned out to be Tyler Grant and Andy Thorn leading the charge. Joints circulated to quell hangovers and picking commenced, for what would be a fantastic two hours of music. During the Allstars, Moe's BBQ set up a table with pulled pork and a couple of other items, calling it a buffet. At one point, the gentleman running the table started yelling at people for how much food they were piling on their plates. It was quite entertaining.

Back at camp, the tents came down, items made their way back to our vehicle and goodbyes were said. On the drive home, Roosevelt, our friend Tom and myself reflected on how great the weekend was. The vibe was incredible, the setup almost perfect, the staff was over the top helpful and the experience was exactly what we needed! This year's YarmonyGrass was the most enjoyable that we've attended to date and after that weekend, our group is set on making this an annual event with friends! Congratulations to the Yarmony staff on an incredible, sold out weekend in the mountains!

Kevin's Photo Gallery



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