Why Steamboat's Massive MusicFest Feels Like a Vacation for Artists and Fans Alike

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Editor:The O's are an Americana band comprising Taylor Young and John Pedigo. Like many of the other 50 artists on the Steamboat Springs MusicFest lineup (and many of its 6,000 attendees), they are from Texas. They will be documenting their first experience at the festival for Westword. There will be snow and beer and local fauna and (ahem) flora and possibly even music.

Days Four and Five: Residuals, Recovery and Returning Home

Reflecting on last week requires strong mental fortitude. Elation and exhaustion have melded our memories. How can we describe this experience? Music Fest is all about piling beers atop beers that are piled on slices of cold pizza. Follow that up with more beer and vodka. It's like eating Cici's: Sure it's delicious, until the cornucopia of debauchery causes you to wake up the next day with gout. This is not the healthy-living retreat that is readily available at any resort in Colorado. Out here in Steamboat for MusicFest, you play all day, hang out all night, and hope the hairs of the dogs get you through another morning spell. So we dredge from moment to moment hoping that we're heading closer to our goal: Festival Epiphany.

See also: The Secrets of the Musician's Heaven on the Seventh Floor at MusicFest

That is what we're looking for -- the moment you realize you're part of a bigger nebulous and sharing an experience that is unique only to Music Fest. It's like going to Disney World when you're a kid, and you believe you're in a real Magic Kingdom. Surely we'll find what we're looking for? We just want what the dude in the photo above has found. He's as happy as a pig in shit, right? After playing our shows, it was time to walk around and check out some music. We saw Jack Ingram, John Slaughter, Roger Creager, fan favorites Turnpike Troubadours and the great American Aquarium. We stumbled upon the legendary Gary P. Nunn playing an impromptu set on the hotel lobby piano (see the photo below). After the scheduled shows had shut down, we found ourselves up in room 707 for a late-night jam. It was here where the camaraderie built, and we started to get that "we're all in the thing together" vibe. We moved to another room on the fifth floor, shut up, and listened to Roger Creager, Matt Hillyar and Max and Heather Stalling. It's these moments -- artists and fans huddled into a small hotel room -- that make MusicFest more than just some random festival. Artists can relax and have fun. The fans get something that just doesn't usually happen. Perhaps it's the beer and pizza building up, but this is the true essence of why we're all here in Steamboat. As we try to quantify the intangibles of this trip and put everything into perspective, the closest comparison we can find for the energy of this festival is a river trip. It's as much a vacation for the artists as it is for the fans. When you've got this many people all in one place, dutifully re-toxing night after night, it sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it's the opposite with these folks, because the crowd's a bunch of good ol' boys and girls. It's mutual respect we found ourselves enjoying up here on the mountain. You can take the cow-poker off the farm, but you can't take the "aw-shucks" out of his or her vernacular.

Had to loan @kevinfowler some clothes, AA lost his bag, he's rocking @wrangler now!!

A photo posted by Casey Donahew (@caseydonahew) on

Thinking back on our first day, when it took 27 door-to-door hours to get here, we feel like we've come out on the other side relatively unscathed. It's crazy how when you finally get to the festival, all the BS that it took to get you there gets lost in the haze, and all you know is that you are part of something great and loving it. This isn't just one of those shows at the local club up the street, this festival takes dedication from all involved. The travel, the weather, the getting around. It's a veritable would-be of things gone wrong. But you wouldn't know that by how smoothly this 'thang' runs. The performances all seemed to go off without any major hitches. Sure, a few things were lost by airlines: Our steel guitar, Casey Donahue's and Kevin Fowler's bags, and plenty of other things. Sometimes it's in the things that we lose (bags, guitars, sunglasses, our minds) that become our best stories. And we look forward to forgetting all the new stories from next year if they'll have us.

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