Music

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Grammy winner's Colorado Springs roots

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 12:36 PM


KAMNEV.PRO / SHUTTERSTOCK
  • KAMNEV.PRO / shutterstock
Sure, Lady Gaga’s distended David Bowie medley may have felt like a ten-minute demo reel of 20 glitzy car crashes.

And yes, that guy from Hamilton’s rap acceptance speech was a little embarrassing, especially coming right on the heels of Kendrick Lamar’s serious-as-your-life hip-hop performance.

And of course the “rockin’ finale,” in which Pitbull was joined by Joe Perry and Robin Thicke, was not, as he claimed, “history in the making” — at least not in a good way.

But Grammy voters did better with some of yesterday's awards, including a Best Folk Album win for Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s full-length debut as a duo.

Colorado Springs actually has a long-standing connection to Washburn, who graduated as Colorado College’s first East Asian Studies major in 1999 and gave the school's commencement speech in 2012.

Earlier this month, the duo spent three days at the college, where they held master workshops, performed at the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre, and appearing on the faculty-member hosted KRCC program Critical Karaoke.

So congratulation not only to the two winners, but also to the local college that helped make it all possible. You can stream the Critical Karaoke program here.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Legendary critics to invade Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 10:34 AM

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Everybody’s a music critic. Well, thankfully, not everyone. But two of the profession's best and brightest, Greil Marcus and Nat Hentoff, will be appearing on the Front Range’s cultural radar over the next two months.

First up is Marcus, who will be giving a free lecture on January 28 at Colorado College’s Gaylord Hall.

The author is perhaps best known for Mystery Train, his extremely erudite cultural history of rock 'n' roll. A former reviews editor at Rolling Stone, he’s written for publications ranging from Creem to Artforum. Real Life Rock, a compendium of his columns of the same name, was published last year by Yale University Press.

Meanwhile, the renowned Nat Hentoff will be making an appearance — albeit a strictly cinematic one — as part of Denver’s 20th Annual Jewish Film Festival

The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a biography about the former Village Voice jazz critic and accomplished civil libertarian activist, will screen February 20. Filmmaker David L. Lewis will be in attendance.
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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten songs to hear while it's still 2015

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 3:47 PM

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At a time when 100,000 albums and singles are being released every year, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that there’s more going on in contemporary music than just Taylor Swift and Drake.

So, with that in mind, our year-end issue includes a feature on ten of the best 2015 songs you've never heard of. They range from Janelle Monae’s strident “Hell You Talmbout” to punk duo Slaves’ jeering “Cheer Up London.”

You can go read about and listen to all of them here. In these waning hours of 2015, they just might make you feel a little better about the year gone by.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Beatles albums to begin streaming Christmas Eve

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 12:07 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • shutterstock

Beatles
fans — at least those who don’t limit their listening to vinyl — will get an early Christmas present this year, as the Fab Four finally come to streaming music services.

It was announced Wednesday that the group['s 17-album catalogue will come to most of the major players, including Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Slacker and Spotify.

The Beatles were among the last holdouts. Others who belatedly took the plunge include 

Frank Zappa, whose original catalogue began streaming in 2012

Led Zeppelin, who succumbed to Spotify in late 2013, and then went stateside earlier this year, and

Taylor Swift, whose 10-second Apple boycott ended in June.

That still leaves the Dave Clark 5 — as well as King Crimson and Tool — but pretty much everyone else is now onboard.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Denver calling on Colorado composers for theme song

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 5:20 PM

onime/shutterstock
  • onime/shutterstock
Much like superheroes, cities need theme songs. Or at least Denver does.

The Mile High City will be spending $5,000 to commission a composer for its official “City and County Building Chime.”

Proposed signature tunes need to be uplifting, lively, positive, and celebratory — none of that “Phantom of the Opera” or “Bells of Rhymney” stuff — and they must also be limited to 10 notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, B flat, C, and D).

Entries are restricted to Colorado artists, and must be received by Friday, January 15.

You can find more rules — lots of them — here.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Black Vinyl Friday

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 4:22 PM



IMAGE BY STOKKETE/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Image by Stokkete/shutterstock

While REI can afford to close its stores in support of the Black Friday boycott, most record shops can’t. Especially now that Record Store Day organizers have unveiled the lineup of exclusive, limited-edition releases that will be available the day after Thanksgiving.

The Black Friday Record Store Day event is more low-key than its annual counterpart in April, but the releases announced today are similarly eclectic.

Hardcore crate-diggers and vinyl fetishists will be fighting over "must-have" collectibles — a pink-vinyl ninja star-shaped Ariel Pink seven-inch, a box of “Obscure Giants of Acoustic Guitar” trading cards, a newly written-and-recorded gold vinyl Shuggie Otis single — while ignoring "maybe they shouldn’t have" releases like… well, we’ll leave that for you to decide.

In the meantime, check out the complete list of upcoming releases
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

SXSW announces first round of 2016 performers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 4:04 PM

ALFIE PHOTOGRAPHY/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Alfie Photography/shutterstock
The South by Southwest Music Festival on Tuesday unveiled its initial wave of performers for next year's festival, which will take place from March 15-20.

The first of what will ultimately add up to more than a thousand acts include longtime Nick Cave collaborator Barry Adamson, German chanteuse Laura Carbone, British shoegaze band Yuck, former Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore's Brand New Step, and Austin hometown heroes Band of Heathens and Jon Dee Graham.

You can also go to sxsw.com to find a short list of panels, ranging from the history of Ardent Records to Talib Kweli and Jarrett Myer holding forth on launching new labels in the digital age.

Of course, the closer we get to the event, the bigger the names will be. In the meantime, here’s round one:
3ballMty (Monterrey MEXICO)
Abjects (London UK-ENGLAND)
The Academic (Mullingar IRELAND)
Barry Adamson (Brighton UK-ENGLAND)
Adée (Kalmar SWEDEN)
Alex G (Philadelphia PA)
Alice on the roof (Brussels BELGIUM)
Aloa Input (Munich GERMANY)
Altimet & the Kawan Band (Kuala Lumpur MALAYSIA)
Anamanaguchi (New York NY)
And The Kids (Northampton MA)
Angelo Moore & The Brand New Step (San Francisco CA)
Astrid S (Berkak NORWAY)
Autobahn (Leeds UK-ENGLAND)
Avec Sans (London UK-ENGLAND)
The Ballroom Thieves (Boston MA)
The Band of Heathens (Austin TX)
Bee's Knees (Los Angeles CA)
Better Person (Berlin GERMANY)
Beverly (Brooklyn NY)
Big Phony (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Bird Dog (Los Angeles CA)
Birdy Nam Nam (Paris FRANCE)
Birthmark (Brooklyn NY)
Black Asteroid (Brooklyn NY)
Bombino (Agadez NIGER)
Boulevards (Raleigh NC)
Brass Bed (Lafayette LA)
Bye Bye Badman (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Laura Carbone (Mannheim GERMANY)
Rosie Carney (Donegal IRELAND)
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (London UK-ENGLAND)
Cash+David (London UK-ENGLAND)
Caveman (New York NY)
Ceasetone (Reykjavik ICELAND)
Chambao (Málaga SPAIN)
Chirkutt (Dhaka BANGLADESH)
Cirkus Funk (Cali COLOMBIA)
Cóndor Jet (Providencia CHILE)
Consulado Popular (Bogotá COLOMBIA)
The Crookes (Sheffield UK-ENGLAND)
Crystal Castles (Toronto CANADA)
Dash Rip Rock (Slidell LA)
David Wax Museum (Charlottesville VA)
Demob Happy (Brighton UK-ENGLAND)
Élage Diouf (Montréal CANADA)
Dirty Fences (Brooklyn NY)
Dolce (Umeå SWEDEN)
Downtown Boys (Providence RI)
DRELLER (London UK-ENGLAND)
Dubioza Kolektiv (Sarajevo BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA)
Eau Rouge (Stuttgart GERMANY)
Emufucka (Tokyo JAPAN)
Expert Alterations (Baltimore MD)
Sarah Farina (Berlin GERMANY)
Lena Fayre (Los Angeles CA)
Fear of Men (Brighton UK-ENGLAND)
Few Bits (Antwerp BELGIUM)
Ian Fisher (Berlin GERMANY)
The Foreign Resort (Copenhagen DENMARK)
Andy Frasco & the U.N. (Los Angeles CA)
A Giant Dog (Austin TX)
Matt Gilmour's Patient Wolf (Austin TX)
Gold Class (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
Jon Dee Graham (Austin TX)
William Harries Graham & the Painted Redstarts (Austin TX)
Guerilla Toss (New York NY)
HÆLOS (London UK-ENGLAND)
Haihm (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Hanggai (Beijing CHINA)
Har Mar Superstar (Minneapolis MN)
Hinds (Madrid SPAIN)
Howardian (New York NY)
Hyperpotamus (Caranca SPAIN)
Illionaire Records (Dok2 & The Quiett) (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Silvana Imam (Stockholm SWEDEN)
Imran Aziz Mian Qawwal (Rawalpindi PAKISTAN)
Into It. Over it. (Chicago IL)
Is Tropical (London UK-ENGLAND)
Jahkoy (Toronto CANADA)
Jambinai (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Joan Of Arc (Chicago IL)
John GRVY (Madrid SPAIN)
Jointpop (Port Of Spain TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
Judah & the Lion (Nashville TN)
KAO=S (Tokyo JAPAN)
Marina Kaye (Marseille FRANCE)
Josh Kelley (Park City UT)
The Kickback (Chicago IL)
La Banda Morisca (Jerez De La Frontera SPAIN)
Lazyeyes (Brooklyn NY)
Lois (Madrid SPAIN)
Demi Louise (Boronia AUSTRALIA)
Love X Stereo (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Lushes (Brooklyn NY)
LV (London UK-ENGLAND)
Mai Nimani (Hyderabad PAKISTAN)
Mamamoo (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
MC Lars (Oakland CA)
Methyl Ethel (Perth AUSTRALIA)
Micachu and the Shapes (London UK-ENGLAND)
Mise en Scene (Winnepeg CANADA)
Missi & Mister Baker (Portland OR)
Moving Panoramas (Austin TX)
Mr Muthafuckin eXquire (Far Rockaway NY)
Mumiy Troll (Vladivostok RUSSIA)
The National Parks (Provo UT)
Now, Now (Minneapolis MN)
Oil Boom (Dallas TX)
OKRAA (Bogotá COLOMBIA)
Paul Oscher (Austin TX)
Overload (Lahore PAKISTAN)
Owen (Chicago IL)
The Parrots (Madrid SPAIN)
PHASES (Los Angeles CA)
Platonick Dive (Livorno ITALY)
The Pocket Rockets (Los Angeles CA)
Ron Pope (Nashville TN)
Prince Rama (New York NY)
PUP (Toronto CANADA)
Pure Bathing Culture (Portland OR)
Quebe Sisters (Dallas TX)
Quiet Life (Portland OR)
Reuben and the Dark (Toronto CANADA)
Emitt Rhodes (Hawthorne CA)
RIVRS (London UK-ENGLAND)
Self Defense Family (Los Angeles CA)
Skyline (Austin TX)
Sleepers' Reign (Herentals BELGIUM)
Son Little (Trenton NJ)
Southern Hospitality (London UK-ENGLAND)
The Spook School (Edinburgh UK-SCOTLAND)
Suboi (Saigon VIETNAM)
Sunflower Bean (New York NY)
Summer Heart (Malmo SWEDEN)
Sur du monde (Rosario ARGENTINA)
Sy Ari Da Kid (Atlanta GA)
Tarmac (Medellin COLOMBIA)
The Nightowls (Austin TX)
Throwing Shade (London UK-ENGLAND)
Vaadat Charigim (Tel Aviv ISRAEL)
Victim Mentality (Seoul SOUTH KOREA)
Victoria+Jean (Brussels BELGIUM)
Waco Brothers (Chicago IL)
Wahid Allan Faqir (Rahim Yar Khan PAKISTAN)
The Wet Secrets (Edmonton CANADA)
Glenn White (New York NY)
Wildhoney (Baltimore MD)
Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders (Christchurch NEW ZEALAND)
Womps (Glasgow UK-SCOTLAND)
Wordburglar (Toronto CANADA)
XYLØ (Westlake Village CA)
Yarn (New York NY)
Yuck (London UK-ENGLAND)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Music community grieves the loss of Chris Forsythe

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 5:00 PM

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My favorite memory of Chris Forsythe, the talented local musician who passed away today at the age of 42, happened at the Black Sheep, a venue where he could be found manning the soundboard at nearly every show.

Chris was showing off a new tattoo he'd gotten on his arm that day, and he told me that he'd had some of his father's ashes mixed into the ink. It seemed like such a poignant thing to do, but he talked about it with the kind of good-natured exuberance that made people feel genuinely happy to be in his presence.

Feeling that way in his absence will be more challenging. His fans and bandmates in Malakai and Tree of Woe will miss his onstage intensity and talent. Musicians who play the Black Sheep will miss his supportive attitude and his ability to make them sound great.

When news of the loss started circulating earlier today, people began posting Facebook tributes and photos at a rate of one every 30 seconds. Further proof of their admiration followed when, within an hour of its launch, a Chris Forsythe Memorial Fund was already more than a third of the way toward its $10,000 goal. The money raised will go to funeral expenses, and you can donate here:

gofundme.com/5f6e3qxw

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vote now for 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:12 AM

Ever since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions started in 1986, they’ve offered music enthusiasts non-stop opportunities to gripe about deserving artists who've been ignored year after year. (Most common complaints: “That’s not even rock and roll.” “Where’s Warren Zevon?”)

Thursday morning, the Cleveland-based organization added more fuel to the fire by announcing its “short list” of 2016 nominees, from which the public can vote online for their five favorites. The collective result will then be counted as a single ballot among approximately 800 others. Voting runs through December 9 here, with winners to be announced later that month.

And now, let the complaining begin!

P.S. Below are the nominees and their current tallies, as of Thursday at 11 AM:

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Show alert: Viet Cong are no longer Viet Cong

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 4:33 PM

This is not a band logo.
  • This is not a band logo.
We've got bad news, as well as good news, for Colorado post-punk fans.

The bad news is that Pitchfork darlings Viet Cong are not coming to Denver’s Marquis Theatre on Friday (Sept. 25).

The good news is that they actually are coming to Denver’s Marquis Theatre on Friday, just not under the name Viet Cong, which has been stirring up controversy in the aftermath of a concert cancellation earlier this year.

Named after the guerrilla organization that America fought in the Vietnam War, Viet Cong are not the first band to offend people by adopting a name associated with wartime atrocities. In fact, one of Viet Cong’s primary influences, the ‘70s post-punk outfit Joy Division, were named after the prostitution wing of Nazi internment camps.

Meanwhile, the band is still listed as “Viet Cong” on the Marquis’ website, possibly because they haven’t yet decided on a new name.

“We rushed into our last band name decision, we don’t plan to rush into this one,” the group writes. “We never expected this kind of attention in the first place and just want to return to playing music, which is the only thing we (kinda) know how to do.”

Here’s the full explanation, as posted by the group on its Facebook page this weekend:

Our band lives to play music. We don’t particularly like doing press, most of us are fairly private people and we have social media for the band only reluctantly. Most of us generally don’t follow online criticism. Over the last year we have essentially lived our lives in a tour van and in music venues, playing over 130 shows. In that time we’ve met many amazing people and had many great conversations with people in person.

Over this time we’ve been listening, talking and having lots of valuable conversations with the members of the Vietnamese community about the name. Through this dialogue and hearing about what the name means to so many people, we have decided we will be changing the name of our band.

Art and music are about creative expression. However, our band name is not our cause, and we are not going to fight for it. This is not what our band is about.

There are many individuals more eloquent than us who have recently had a lot to say about the topic of the name and our appropriation of the name Viet Cong. For more insights into the arguments we encourage you to read some of these. We are a band who want to make music and play our music for our fans. We are not here to cause pain or remind people of atrocities of the past.

The truth is, we’ve been planning to change the band name for the next record for months; it has not been an easy decision by any means. We are a band of four people with four individual voices; this debate has been long and difficult for us and it took time for everyone to settle on a plan of action.

We don’t know what the new name of our band will be, and we owe it to our fans to honour the concerts we have booked. We rushed into our last band name decision, we don’t plan to rush into this one, but know that will be rolling out a new name as soon as we agree upon one.

We realize this won't satisfy everyone, but that's certainly not the goal of this band. We never expected this kind of attention in the first place and just want to return to playing music, which is the only thing we (kinda) know how to do.

We’ve had an incredible amount of support from fans, and we have to thank everyone who has said supportive words to us as we struggle with this. As always, we welcome people talking to us in person.

– Matt, Mike, Monty & Danny.

The other good news is that tickets are still available to see the band, whatever they're called, at themarquistheatre.com. Colorado Spring' own Eros and The Eschaton will be opening the show. 

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Free screening of Brian Wilson biopic Thursday

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 3:52 PM

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in 'Love and Mercy'
  • Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in 'Love and Mercy'

Due to a licensing agreement, our friends over at the Independent Film Society of Colorado are unable to reveal the actual title of the mystery film they'll be screening for free Thursday night.

They are, however, able to tell us that the film is about "Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson's struggle with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece."

Coincidentally, the film Love and Mercy, released earlier this summer, is also about Brian Wilson's struggle with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece.

So maybe Thursday night's mystery movie is Love and Mercy. Or maybe its just some very obscure Kurosawa film. Either way, it'll screen tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the Tim Gill Center for Public Media at 315 E. Costilla St.

Meanwhile, you can also read our interview with Love and Mercy's music director Darian Sahanaja here.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Photos from the Indy Music Awards and Freewheelin' Music Fest

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 11:47 AM

With autumn now just around the corner, the 5th annual Indy Music Awards Festival and the inaugural Freewheelin’ Music Fest served as a fantastic close to the summer festival season.

Hosted at the Ivywild School in conjunction with Bristol Brewery, Friday and Saturday saw numerous Indy Music Awards winners and national acts take the dual stages, entertaining the crowds who braved the end of the summer heat and providing a wide, diverse swath of musical variety.

Friday night headliners Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires and Saturday night’s Phosphorescent each delighted the crowd with their blistering classic soul and arena-ready indie rock, respectively, while the local winners, such as The ReMINDers and The Mostly Don’ts, drew hugely enthusiastic responses of their own.

And, of course, there were plenty of surprises, such as local metal act Malakai’s out-of-nowhere Rick Astley cover and folksinger Joe Pug’s tongue-in-cheek endorsement of Donald Trump.

For a more detailed recap of the weekend’s events, check out next week’s Reverb column.

Charles Bradley - CAMERON MOIX
  • Cameron Moix
  • Charles Bradley

Miguel Dakota & The Differents - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Miguel Dakota & The Differents


The ReMINDers - CAMERON MOIX
  • Cameron Moix
  • The ReMINDers


Eros & The Eschaton - CAMERON MOIX
  • Cameron Moix
  • Eros & The Eschaton


Joe Pug - CAMERON MOIX
  • Cameron Moix
  • Joe Pug



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Friday, August 21, 2015

Hot Rod Heaven

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:23 AM

JOHN DE BORD / SHUTTERSTOCK
  • John De Bord / Shutterstock

Carmageddon is back, and it’s not the politically-incorrect PC game with the “lock up your granny” tagline.

The Colorado Springs version, as any local rockabilly or hot rod fan will tell you, is the King Pin Carmageddon car show, which is put on annually by the local Lonely Knights Car Club.

Now in its 10th year, the free day-long event will bring pre-1973 cars and vintage rock ‘n’ roll to Southside Johnny’s on August 29.

The competition categories — Best Kustom, Best Muscle Car, Best Truck, Best Hot Rod, Best Motorcycle, and Best Vintage Kooler — offer further proof that this is the polar opposite of those sprawling, sterile World Arena auto-dealer showcases.

The Carmegeddon folks have also announced that L.A. rock ’n’ jump-blues revivalists Vicky Tafoya & the Big Beat will be this year's music headliners.

Find more information here.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

President releases personal Spotify playlists

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2015 at 11:04 AM

WHITE HOUSE PHOTO
  • White House photo

"Your summer just got a little groovier," the White House has announced in a press release detailing Barack Obama's inaugural Spotify playlists.

Taken together, they represent the most exciting presidential music recommendations since Woodrow Wilson released his own wax-cylinder mixtape in the early 1920s.

Okay, we made up the Woodrow Wilson part, but the rest is true.

The more interesting POTUS picks include Talib Kweli, Florence + The Machine, Lianne La Havas, and Leonard Cohen.

Less exciting, perhaps, is the inclusion of tracks by Coldplay, The Lumineers, and Beyonce.

You can find the official White house press release here.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nicki Bluhm, Jason Isbell and The Family Crest shine at Lyons' Folks Fest

Posted By on Sun, Aug 16, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Nicki Bluhm channeling Grace and Dolly at this weekend' Folks Fest in Lyons. - PHOTO BY LORING WIRBEL
  • Photo by Loring Wirbel
  • Nicki Bluhm channeling Grace and Dolly at this weekend' Folks Fest in Lyons.
No matter the breadth of talent booked by Planet Bluegrass for each year’s Folks Fest in Lyons, a significant number of Festivarians arrive with a set agenda in mind.

For this weekend's 25th anniversary event, the planned draws included Sufjan Stevens’ first Colorado performance of the acoustic "Carrie and Lowell," an unusual joint appearance by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin, an emergence from seclusion by the elusive Gillian Welch, and the first showing by guitar virtuoso Richard Thompson since his stunning new album Still.

Even fans with the most predetermine agendas often run into utter surprises during each year’s festival, and Saturday's festivities were no exception, thanks to the gypsy folk act Taarka, the experimental spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan, indie-rock choir The Family Crest, and the madcap jam band Session Americana, produced by Anais Mitchell.

Still, the most interesting acts of any given year are typically ones that balance surprise and expectations – a hybrid of the set agenda and the total unknown. Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell's Pine Hill Project, for example, combined two beloved folk songwriters in an unexpected duo. Shindell in particular rarely appears in the U.S. since his move to Buenos Aires. The Pine Hill Project’s Kickstarter-funded album featured Kaplansky and Shindell offering 11 unusual cover songs. Some of these, like Dave Carter’s powerful “Farewell to St. Dolores,” were performed at Folks Fest. But so were some unreleased Shindell tunes like “Deer on the Parkway,” and a haunting Sept. 11 ballad by Kaplansky, “Brooklyn Train.”

Another artist that insiders thought they had pegged was The Gramblers, led by San Francisco’s newest chanteuse, Nicki Bluhm. Bluhm is a remarkable singer, but few in the audience expected her to channel elements of Grace Slick and Dolly Parton. Bluhm led The Gramblers through a set that steadily increase in power and decibels.

Even the well-known alt-country artist Jason
Isbell, who closed Saturday’s show, brought along some surprises. Isbell had a reputation for abuse of pills and the bottle, while he was in Drive-By Truckers and in his early solo years. Saturday night, however, proved a clean-and-sober salute to 12-step redemption. Isbell provided a powerful and crisp tour through his two most recent albums, Southeastern and Something More Than Free, minimizing the appearance of the more relentlessly depressing tunes in favor of those emphasizing hope. His violin player, Amanda Shires, was nowhere to be seen, as she and Isbell have married and are expecting a baby within weeks.

Isbell still knows where all the bodies are buried in the Deep South, but he’s given up pill laments for patter about diapers. The Folks Fest crowd loved it all, treating Isbell’s performance as just one more surprise in a weekend festival loaded with the unexpected. 
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