Every good Coloradan knows that everything is better in the mountains. Sports, views, air and even music festivals. One reason our state has been able to draw fans and bands from around the nation (and world) is the same reason we're able to attract so many tourists.
Telluride, Colorado, hosts a different festival practically every weekend in the summer. There's abluegrass festival, a film festival, a yoga festival, a mushroom festival and more. Rumor has it there is even an "unfestival" the one weekend there is no festival, where locals supposedly celebrate the absence of tourists by going from bar-to-bar naked (though reliability of the source of this information is questionable).
Further research on the unfestival will have to wait, though: This weekend, Ride Festival will bring a lineup including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Spoon and the Wood Brothers to the mountains. "It is festival season for us. that's what we do all summer," Says Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers. "Telluride is known as one of the ultimate festival stops. For us, it's a little remote, but we try to make it work."
Natural beauty has long been part of Colorado's live music appeal -- it's what defines the state's most famous venue, Red Rocks. Wood says its mountain festivals have a very specific feel as compared to city festivals.
"I think as far as the atmosphere, the people are just happy to be there," Wood says. "I think when people are in a beautiful spot like that it's just a different vibe. It feels specials for both the artists and the audience."
At festivals musicians also get to mingle with old and new friends and watch and meet their own heroes. They can collaborate with and learn from the other artists both on and off stage.
"That's the one time where all the bands are at the same place at the same time. At a mountain festival, people really want to hang out," says Woods
But not all things about mountain festivals are good things. For many, they are far away. You have to take time off for travel in addition to the actual days of the event. And lodging isn't cheap. Mountain towns are already pricey, and sometimes renting fees get hiked up during popular festivals.
It's tough for the artists, too. Wood says it's too expensive to stay for more than one or two days of these festivals, because musicians have to pay the whole team traveling with them.
The mountains are hard to leave, though, and there are certainly artists willing to do more work or endure the costs to spend a little more time. During Telluride Bluegrass, several artists make it work by playing sets at the different stages (the main stage, the free stage, and the night stages at different town bars) and making cameo apperances in other musician's sets.
But even if they can't stay long, artists can enjoy the time they have both inside and outside the festivals. It isn't uncommon to see musicians wandering the streets of these small towns or watching another artist perform at one of the stages.
Wood says it's a nice chance to connect with fans -- that the environment in the mountains helps facilitate positive interactions.
"I love that, I think it's great," he says. "It's so low key. It's the perfect place to be one-on-one with an artist and just have a moment."
The Wood Brothers have a particular affinity for the mountains -- they grew up in Boulder.
"For me, it's very nostalgic," says Wood. "I love the mountains. They remind me of my childhood a lot."
Whether you are fan or a musician, Coloradan or not, if you've got the opportunity to get out to mountain music, it's not a difficult choice.
"There's a unique vibe, it's such a destination spot. You know, we have to get invited back, but it's definitely an easy thing to say yes to."
The Ride Festival takes place July 12 and 13 in Telluride. Other bands featured on the lineup include the Hold Steady, Lucero and White Denim. Two-day and single-day tickets are still available, as are camping passes. More information is available on the festival's web site.
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