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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
FolkWest’s festival season will officially kick off at the sixth annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival, June 7-9 on Reservoir Hill.
The 16 festival bands making up this year’s musical lineup will play more than 20 sets of music on the festival’s main stage and late night stage over the 3-day event. The incredibly deep lineup represents a variety of musical styles and genres, from experimental bluegrass to Celtic and alt-country rock. The bands who’ll be playing on the hill this June are The Band of Heathens, The Duhks, The Iguanas, Della Mae, The Black Lillies, Matt Flinner Trio, the Warren Hood Band, Taarka, The Defibulators, The Haunted Windchimes, Paper Bird, Front Country, Finnders and Youngberg, and this week’s featured bands: Corn Yeti, The Expedition Quintet and The New Shoots Trio. You can find links to all of the festival artists on the FolkWest website.
Once again, the week leading up to the festival will bring two bluegrass camps to Pagosa Springs: the Pagosa Bluegrass Camp for Kids and the Pagosa Bluegrass Jam Camp, both taking place June 4-6. The kids’ camp is for students age 8-16 and is taught by highly qualified music teachers from around the nation. At the time of this writing there are just a handful of spaces left in the kids’ bluegrass camp.
Jam Camp is an excellent opportunity for intermediate level pickers to take a big step forward in their bluegrass understanding and pickin’ proficiency. The camp uses a quick-paced variety of different teaching styles and formats including large group instruction, small instrument workshops, one-on-one lessons and a band scramble that is coached by each of the staff members from the band Finnders and Youngberg. There are currently a few spots left for those who play the banjo, bass or fiddle — sorry, we cannot accept any more guitar or mandolin players.
On Saturday, June 8, at 11:15 a.m., the Expedition Quintet, led by banjoist Jake Schepps, will perform an original composition, “Flatiron.” When banjoist Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys in 1945, it forever canonized the traditional five-piece bluegrass string band. In the last half-century, this combination of instruments has been explored by musicians throughout the world, in countless combinations, yet “Flatiron” is something original. “Flatiron” is composer Marc Mellits’ view of the string band, recontextualized and reimagined as a rhythmically interlocking machine, where contemporary classical post-minimalism meets skillful technique and bluegrass drive. The multi-movement composition is as firmly rooted in the mountains as the Manhattan skyline, and this ensemble has a long history of forging paths playing adventurous string band music.
Jake Schepps will be taking the lead of another festival band this June, Corn Yeti. The ensemble is an all-star cast of Colorado-based bluegrass musicians who gather to play hard drivin’ music inspired by the pantheon of bluegrass legends. But the group always pays special homage to its namesake (Corn Yeti being an anagram of Tony Rice). For this auspicious set at Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass, the band will be playing Tony’s eponymous 1977 album “Tony Rice” in its entirety. The band is rounded out by Grant Gordy (guitar, vocals), Jordan Ramsey (mandolin, vocals), Ben Lewis (fiddle, vocals) and Eric Thorin (doghouse bass, vocals). Corn Yeti performs at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.
The last of this week’s featured festival bands is the New Shoots Trio. Sandra Wong, Dominick Leslie and Greg Tanner Harris come together in dynamic, unique combinations to explore music from all corners of the globe, including their own compositions. Reaching into their individual roots of classical, African, bluegrass, jazz, Scandinavian, Middle-Eastern, old-time American music and more, their arrangements honor each tradition while moving into new, unchartered territory. Pagosans were treated to a slight variation of this group a few months ago when they performed at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. You can catch them in town again in the festival setting on Sunday, June 9 at 11 a.m.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is supported in part with funding from Colorado Creative Industries.
The 18th annual Four Corners Folk Festival takes place Aug. 30-Sept. 1. This year’s exciting lineup includes headliners John Hiatt and the Combo and Natalie MacMaster, along with The Wood Brothers, Darrell Scott Band, Jimmy LaFave, John Fullbright, Elephant Revival, The Lone Bellow, Sarah Siskind and Travis Book, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Baskery, New Country Rehab, Aoife O’Donovan Band, Slaid Cleaves, The Giving Tree Band and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams. Early Bird tickets to the Four Corners Folk Festival are available through April 30.
For more information on the festival or bluegrass camps, or to purchase tickets, visit www.folkwest.com or call 731-5582. You can also find both festivals on Facebook, which is a great way to keep up to date on the latest announcements.