Western Colorado’s Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival
by Sharon Sullivan
As an 8-year old banjo player and son of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Rob McCoury learned early on the fun of making music. He remembers his father’s bands jamming for hours at the family home.
After the younger McCoury started “fooling around” with the bass at age 14, he was invited to fill in for his father’s Del McCoury Band for a three-day gig in New York.
“He said “get some good clothes and grab that bass – you’re going,’” recalled McCoury. “I was the bass player for about a year, and then moved on to be the banjo player.”
These days McCoury and his mandolin playing brother Ronnie, have their own band, The Travelin’ McCourys, which includes fiddle player Jason Carter, Alan Bartram on bass, and Cody Kilby playing guitar.
The Travelin’ McCourys will perform Saturday afternoon, June 10, at the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival –and then again that evening when the progressive bluegrass band joins the Jeff Austin Band on stage for a collaborative “Grateful Ball” set of Grateful Dead songs.
“A lot of people got turned on to what we do because of what they did,” said McCoury. “Jerry Garcia was a bluegrass guy first and foremost. It’s been fun learning their songs and working them up on bluegrass instruments.”
The western Colorado music festival begins Friday at 3 p.m. with a lineup of Colorado-based musicians that include Let Them Roar, The Sweet Lilies, Mayhem Gulch, The Lonesome Days, and the closing headliner, Shel – a virtuoso indie-folk quartet of sisters currently on tour to promote their album “Just Crazy Enough.”
“They’re incredible musicians – Shel is really going to explode into Palisade’s consciousness,” said festival co-promoter Amy Kimberly. “They’re very fresh. There’s a lot more indie in them than a lot of the other artists.”
On Saturday the festival kicks off at 11 a.m. with the lively San Francisco-based band Front Country, followed at 1 p.m. by the Venice Beach-based band Dustbowl Revival – an American roots orchestra that combines “bluegrass, hot jazz, pre-war blues, southern soul and a good dose of New Orleans funk.”
Saturday is a “hot day all around,” said Kimberly, with the Travelin’ McCourys and the Jeff Austin (formerly lead singer for Yonder Mountain) Band closing out the day.
Opening Sunday is Harpeth Rising, a group comprised of cello, banjo and violin that fuses folk, newgrass, rock and classical to create a sound that is both “familiar and impossible to categorize.”
Next up is Parsonfield, a group known for its “jubilant and danceable indie roots music.”
At 3 p.m., The Lil’ Smokies perform their traditional bluegrass-turned progressive acoustic music. The Lil’ Smokies garnered awards at the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association and won the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band completion.
Closing out the festival is Keller and the Keels, a bluegrass trio that includes award-winning flat picker Larry Keel and his bass-playing wife Jenny Keel.
Set alongside the Colorado River in Riverbend Park, the festival allows for camping a short walk or golf cart ride way from the stage. Campers can expect music jams in the campground all night long.
“It’s just such an amazing scene,” Kimberly said. “It’s beautiful, with lots of shade.”
Part of what makes the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival so special is the “sense of place” the town provides, Kimberly said. There’s lot to do throughout the weekend – including standup paddle boarding on a nearby lake, touring the wineries, and attending yoga classes in the morning before the music starts.
“Recreation is an intricate part of the festival and we allow time for that,” Kimberly said. “It’s a chance to soak up the flavor of Palisade. It’s part of the magic.”
For tickets, or more information visit the web site: www.palisademusic.com