Hot Rize in Telluride! Plus This Week’s Airing With Blues Traveler and more:
By Helen ~ June 27, 2013
So sorry, I’m a bit late posting the blog this week, been a travelin’ fool (plus, the broken rib has slowed me down a bit).
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival was SO fun!
And it was especially great to be there to celebrate the festival’s 40th year in existence. I saw so many great old friends while I was there, from back when I lived in Telluride through the 70’s and early 80’s. It was particularly fitting that so many iconic bluegrassers were part of the line-up, including Hot Rize (Pete Wernick, Nick Forster, Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton). A bit of trivia: Nick has appeared at that festival, with both Hot Rize and others, close to 30 times in the past 40 years!
Hot Rize did a great set there on late Sunday afternoon of the festival weekend, playing both older hits and a half a dozen new songs they’ve written for the CD that they’re working on (their recent recording session at eTown Hall, by the way, went great!).
Looking back, you know something funny? In all those years that I co-owned and co-produced the TBG Festival, and all the times Hot Rize played there, I never saw their set. I was so swamped with all the things I helped supervise (among them: attendee parking, the front gate, 100+ volunteers, accommodations, artist travel and ground transport) that I had little time for anything else.
Back then, our organization was small and very hands on. One of my more bizarre memories of that time was walking the three blocks from Town Park to the bank carrying paper bags stuffed full of cash (receipts from the front gate), bookended by two burly but unarmed security guys, one on each side. The three of us waded through the shoulder-to-shoulder, thousands of festival attendees on Main Street who were heading to the festival site we’d just left. Those festival goers of course had no idea what was in those bags! That was surreal.
As I said, I heard very little of the music at the festival; until 1987, that is, the first year of my retirement from the company (then known as ‘High Country Concerts” and now called “Planet Bluegrass” . . . two rather trippy names I just realized). That’s when my partner, the late Fred Shellman, gifted me a lifetime, all access pass and told me to go hear all the bands who’d played our festival every year, the ones I’d never had time to hear.
One of the bands I made a point of seeing was Hot Rize.
I remember being really impressed by their stage presence, the vocal harmonies, their musical ability, and Nick’s MC’ing. I loved the suits and vintage ties (not the norm for most bluegrass bands at that time). I also thought their music was great, both the original stuff and their arrangements of old classics; and the use of one microphone (also rarer in bluegrass in the 80’s) was just plain cool, the way they had to choreograph their movements when they came in for three and four part vocal harmonies so they didn’t bump into each other’s instruments – they were very happening, very hip. They had a large and wildly enthusiastic following (evenly split in loyalty between Hot Rize and their alter-ego colleagues, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers . . oh that Wendell Mercantile! Check them out on YouTube).
As many of you know, 1987 was also the year Nick and I met briefly, by chance, backstage during the festival; but we did not connect on a personal level until several months later. When we did, though, it was powerful.
And the rest is history.
More about the Telluride Festival next week, highlights, impressions, etc, plus our quick trip to Oregon following that event. But now . . .
On to the details about this week’s eTown broadcast/podcast:
First, Blues Traveler: The band got its start in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987 and they’ve put out a 25-year anniversary CD to celebrate this fact. So of course it made sense to come and showcase it on eTown. It’d been almost a decade since they last were with us, so we were pretty excited to see them. Their anniversary CD is an in-depth collection of songs that range from recognizable hits to those the band recorded but never put out to the public. If you’re a Blues Traveler fan, you need to check out this CD. For a teaser, tune in, they do songs from it.
And Ruthie Foster? She is a musical force to be reckoned with. Incredible singer. Gifted songwriter. I cannot describe how exceptional she is. She can do anything. Seriously. She could sing the phone book and it’d still give you chills. And a terrific person, just a joy to work with.
We’ve also got a really engaging, adorable, “live and in-person” E-Chievement Award winner this week (those are always the best), who’s got a great story to tell.
Have fun, stay safe, talk next week,
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