Telluride Blues & Brews 9.15 - 9.17.17
Words by Casey Kelly
Photos by Ty Hyten Photography
There may be no place better suited for a three-day getaway to the heart of the great outdoors than the annual Telluride Blues and Brews Music Festival. The festival, which showcases the best there is to offer from the world of blues music and craft beer, held it’s 24th annual celebration Sept. 15-17 underneath the peaks surrounding Telluride’s Town Park.
The afternoon mood in the park was upbeat as attendees danced around the lawn chairs that stretched back from the stage and sampled the smorgasbord of treats vendors were offering all weekend long. Much like the variety of music, between the craft beer and cocktails to the corn dogs and dumplings, there was something for everyone at the festival.
Following McClinton’s slot, slide-guitar player Jack Broadbent drew a sizeable crowd to the Blues Tent, where the audience was treated to Broadbent’s mix of old-time blues and folk songs. Broadbent played his vintage guitars laid over his lap using a whiskey flask as a slide, while his smoky, soulful voice electrified his songs about life on the road and heartbreak. In between tunes, the musician bantered playfully with the crowd, dropping in tongue-in-cheek product placement jokes and telling stories about life as a traveling blues musician. The highlight of Broadbent’s set came near the end when he covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary.”
The evening crowd began to settle in on Friday for Blues and Brews veteran Anders Osborne’s main stage set. The set featured a number of extended jams from the New Orleans-based band as they played through songs spanning their career, while relying heavily on tracks off the band’s latest release, Flower Box. Fellow New Orleans musician Benjamin Booker followed Osborne’s set on the main stage, and the young band had the audience dancing with their blend of blues and garage rock.
The festival kicked off on Saturday with the Grand Tasting event, featuring samples of more than 50 craft breweries from Colorado and beyond. The event lets attendees sample the variety of beers and vote for a favorite to be crowned “Best of Fest.” This year’s winner were the hometown favorites, Telluride Brewing Company, which offered samples of its Face Down Brown Ale and American Style Brown Ale. While attendees strolled in the sunshine and tasted the variety of libations, Hamish Anderson and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band filled the air with their own brand of blues tunes. Anderson, a young impressive guitar player put on an especially impressive and energetic set peppered with a couple of Grateful Dead and Beatles teases.
Fish, who also played later in the evening to a packed house at the Sheridan Opera House, showed why she was invited back after delivering a standout performance at least year’s event. Fish’s soulful voice and fiery electric guitar playing led her band, complete with backing horns, through a number of tunes that showcased her talent, including the swampy slide-guitar-laden “It’s Your Voodoo Working” and the delicate, hobbling blues of “Either Way I Lose.” Fish even brought the spirit of New Orleans to the audience when a group on the side of the stage began tossing out mardis gras beads into the crowd, which could be seen donning the necks of festival-goers for the rest of the weekend.
Benoit, another musician minted in New Orleans and a Blues and Brews festival favorite, put on a guitar workshop during his set while his air-tight rhythm section backed him without missing a step. Highlights from Benoit’s set included renditions of the swinging “One Foot in the Bayou” and a nod to his blues predecessors with “The Blues is Here to Stay.”
Saturday night’s headlining set brought out two legends Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ to perform songs from each others’ catalogs, as well as tunes off the self-titled album the pair recorded together earlier this year. Mahal sat on stage while Mo’ stood as the two played fan-favorites like Mo’s “Am I Wrong” and “Government Cheese.” A highlight of the set came with “Diving Duck Blues” from the pair’s new album, which featured the two trading off singing verses, Mo’s tasteful slide guitar work and Mahal’s deep, gravelly voice.
Sunday brought a cover of rain clouds to the event, but attendees were bundled up and prepared for the day of music. The festival was halted and attendees asked to evacuate briefly when a thunderstorm brought the threat of lightning strikes, however, the festival organizers were still able to reopen the doors after about an hour and shift set times to accommodate the packed lineup of music so that none of the sets would be missed.
The rain continued to hang around Town Park as Magpie Salute took the stage. The band was started by Black Crowes co-founder, Rich Robinson, along with his former Black Crowes bandmates, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien. The band seemed to be playing its energetic southern blues rock along with the rainstorm, with the band’s jamming matching the ebb and flow of the rainstorm as it changed in intensity throughout the band’s set. The rain jam culminated in a beautiful rainbow that appeared behind the crowd as the storm clouds broke for a few moments, stretching across the panoramic view of Telluride’s scenic surroundings.
Closing out the festival was headliner Steve Winwood, who performed songs spanning his musical career as a member of Traffic, Blind Faith and the Spencer Davis Group. Starting his set off with the funky “I’m a Man” off the Spencer Davis Group’s 1966 album Autumn ‘66, Winwood weaved a set of hits such as Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Had to Cry Today,” with the highlight coming in Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone,” which featured an extended jam that saw nearly all the members in his band contributing solos. Windwood closed his set out with the energetic fan favorite “Gimme Some Lovin’” from his time with the Spencer Davis Group.
Although the weather had taken a turn on the final day of the festival, the cloud-covered day found its silver lining with a spectacular sunset that lit up the remaining clouds over the town in orange, red and purple — a treat that seemed well-deserved after the damp day, and provided the perfect culmination for the spectacular weekend of music.
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