It’s a tradition as old as bluegrass itself…well, okay, so it’s only a 41-year old tradition, but it feels as old as bluegrass. Each year around the summer solstice, thousands of music lovers converge on the mountain town of Telluride for the world-renowned Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a four-day event that fills the canyon with some of the best live music heard anywhere. This year’s festival kicks off Thursday, June 19 and runs through Sunday, June 21.
It’s not just bluegrass, either; while traditional bluegrass is definitely a staple, the festival is known for drawing well-known artists from other genres, including country, folk, and even rock. Recent years have seen appearances by the likes of Mumford & Sons, Ryan Adams, Ani DiFranco, The Decemberists, Counting Crows, Elvis Costello and many other diverse acts.
The lineup at the 2014 Telluride Bluegrass Festival look to be just as diverse, with names like Ray LaMontagne, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Keller Williams, The Lone Bellow, Steve Winwood, Andrew Bird and more. Some of the best “newgrass” will also be featured on the main stage, including no less than three appearances by mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile: as a solo artist, with his band Punch Brothers, and with the recently reunited Nickel Creek. Of course, repeat “festivarians” will be glad to see some of the regular festival mainstays, including Béla Fleck, Tim O’Brien and Sam Bush.
For festivarians who like to play as much as listen, Telluride Bluegrass Festival offers a whole side lineup of workshops and contests at the Elks Park stage, where attendees can interact with performers, enjoy informal sets and collaborations, and compete in the Telluride Troubadour and band contests. For those who like to mix a bit of nightlife with their bluegrass, the Nightgrass series features intimate late-night shows in Telluride’s indoor venues.
Perhaps the most appealing and endearing aspect of this event for music fans is its relaxed sense of community. Unlike other major summer festivals in which each band performance is a self-contained production in itself, Telluride Bluegrass Festival sees a sense of camaraderie among the artists not typically found elsewhere. As a result, festivarians often get to experience lots of surprises along the way, including spontaneous collaborations and other moments of musical magic that won’t be seen or heard anywhere else.
Tickets for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival are available as single-day passes or 4-day passes, with campground and lodging packages also available. While this year’s festival is officially sold out according to the TBF website, last-minute passes are still available at secondary ticketing outlets, but due to limited quantities and demand, plan to pay premium rates for these.