A Prairie Home Companion at the Ryman

A Prairie Home Companion visited Nashville on the first weekend in May. A bit of Minnesota in the Mother Church of Country Music.  There’s some audio highlights on http://prairiehome.publicradio.org .

Sam Bush Band – Ridin’ That Bluegrass Train

Brad Paisley – Anything Like Me

APHC is doing a benefit show in Madison, Wisconsin, tonight, with Robin and Linda Williams, in memory of Garrison Keillor’s brother.

Telluride Bluegrass 2009 Lineup

OK.  So I wrote the nice fluffy bit for the No Depression Telluride Bluegrass Festival Blogging Contest, now here’s my take on the lineup:


OK, now that that’s over with… I posted the big-ticket event roster with last.fm links over there.  Bluegrass.com line-up has your basic paragraph bios & pics.  I know there’s up the hill and down in town and all.  Whatever.  My thoughts on the Single-Day lineup as posted:

    Thursday’s picks:

  • David Byrne to kick off the event:  Huh?  Good god what are they thinking???  Then again Planet Bluegrass is equal parts World, and Music, could be an interesting set.  Tho I’m not all together sure if these are in cardinal order.  (And I’m late for dinner so I’m not going to take the time to check.)
  • Conor Oberst (i.e. Bright Eyes): Good follow-on from Byrne
  • 3 Girls & their Buddy:  Emmylou, Patty, Shawn Colvin & Buddy Miller.  Now you’re talking.  They ought to get 4x the set time.
  • Peter Rowan fits, Zac Brown comes recommended but doesn’t really fit (?), Lovell Sisters would transition well to Jerry Douglas & Tim O’Brien.

  • Railroad Earth played at KRFC when they came thru Fort Collins and really wowed us… for East Coast guys.
  • Elvis Costello, Bela Fleck, John Cowan.  Buy extra strings, they’ll probably break a few
  • Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley):  Some last.fm’ers I know like her, but I just haven’t taken the time to really get to know her.  Certainly some younger indie rock cred.
  • The Greencards:  I’d really like to see these three.  Really.
  • Blue Canyon Boys:  A Colorado bluegrass band, at a ‘bluegrass’ festival in Colorado.  Cool.

  • Sam Bush Band, Jerry Douglas Band, Yonder Mountain String Band:  Telluride truth in advertising.  See my No Depression blog for a great video on YMSB in Telluride.
  • Kasey Chambers & Mr. Kasey.  Saturday looks like one of those days, it could be pouring rain, and this line-up will be so mellow, so chilled, ya just don’t care…
    Sunday: Time to go home, but I would stick around for the Telluride House Band and more Emmylou, plus Tim O’Brien.

  • Todd Snider is a bit too political for my taste but I’m sure the granola heads will love ’em.
  • Steeldrivers:  More last.fm’rs I like & respect like these guys.  I haven’t spent the oro to check out their plata.
  • And as for Mike Ferris, Planet Bluegrass says: “As the sun rises on the Telluride Sunday morning gospel set, prepare to be moved, shaken, and healed. ”  Sounds good to me.

I jumped (or maybe was pushed) into the No Depression community in large part due to their Telluride blog dare.  I’m not terribly happy with my fluffy post.  It could be better.  It could be worse.  I would have liked to have had the historical photo of William Jennings Bryan (in front of the New Sheridan Hotel), but if I understand the fine print correctly Telluride Historical Museum wants $150 for one-time limited use, which is $149 more than I have in my pocket right now.  Oh, well.  My old Mac wouldn’t be up to the trip, and I don’t do so well with crowds anyway.

Besides, Cadillac Sky was there last year.  Can’t possibly top that!



Go Higher

Telluride Topography

Telluride, Bluegrass and the Cross of Gold

My first time into Telluride I was coming in from the East. The summer was hot and dry; the Colorado backcountry better suited to rattlesnakes than trout water. I had been camping up the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, some rutted jeep trail of a Forest Service road that would have seemed an interstate compared to the insanity of Black Bear Pass. That is to say, I drove in from the West, down Leopard Creek Canyon through Placerville by way of Ridgeway. When in doubt, go higher.

“I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were but a measuring of ability; but this is not a contest among persons. The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring. I come to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty-the cause of humanity.”

William Jennings Bryan spoke as such when he visited the town of Telluride in 1896, while campaigning for the presidency. Telluride sits astride a narrow box canyon at the headwaters of the San Miguel River. It’s not the sort of place you happen across, that you wander through on your way from here to there. Telluride is a destination.

“Never before in the history of this country has there been witnessed such a contest as that through which we have passed. Never before in the history of American politics has a great issue been fought out as this issue has been by the voters themselves.”

The mines of the San Juan mountains gave birth to Telluride in the 1870s. Zinc, lead, copper, silver and gold flowed from the Sheridan, the Tomboy, the Pandora mines. Miners mined the ore, the town mined the miners. The good times were good. The bad times were bad. Butch Cassidy began his career in crime in June 1889 when his “wild bunch” robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank. Eastern financiers dealt a much heavier blow during the Silver Panic of 1893. It was silver and gold that brought Bryan to town.

“But in this contest, brother has been arrayed against brother, and father against son. The warmest ties of love and acquaintance and association have been disregarded. Old leaders have been cast aside when they refused to give expression to the sentiments of those whom they would lead, and new leaders have sprung up to give direction to this cause of freedom. Thus has the contest been waged, and we have assembled here under as binding and solemn instructions as were ever fastened upon the representatives of a people.”

Over time the mines played out, and by the 1970s, “hippies” had taken over many of the old union shacks. The search for silver and gold turned to the perfect slope. And the perfect music festival. According to the Library of Congress, the first Telluride Bluegrass Festival was organized by a bluegrass band, Fall Creek, for the 1974 Independence Day celebration. Telluride, acoustic music and the Festival have all changed a lot since then.

“we stand here representing people who are the equals before the law of the largest cities… The miners who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the channels of trade are as much businessmen as the few financial magnates who in a backroom corner the money of the world.”

Author & professional contrarian Edward Abbey made his home downriver, past where the San Miguel joins the Dolores River and flows into Utah. He lamented the mining at Moab that followed the bust at Telluride. He lamented the rise of industrial tourism that turned desert towns and mining towns into meccas for the leisure class. Abbey’s Moab and Bryan’s Telluride are the same, yet different, than hundreds of others places in the high country. Built and broke on the back of mining and ranching. Reborn as recreational playgrounds, some might say they sold their souls to the new company store. Might say they’ve lost their souls on a cross of gold.

“If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

William Jennings Bryan spoke of literal gold, the heavy yellow mineral competing with Telluride’s silver for status as legal currency. Yet we still today find ourselves pressed down upon: Our crown of thorns is a gold record standard. The over-riding expectation that all that matters is the next hit on the radio chart, the next big thing on MTV, the next Girls Gone Viral on the world wide web.

Telluride is one of the few places that have staked out their own claim outside the Next Big Thing. Citizens of the town work hard to stand up for their land and historic fabric, looking for ways to balance growth and development—to make a place for a ski resort, summer recreation and a functioning community.  The Telluride Bluegrass Festival has done as well, balancing a broad and diverse lineup to stay funky yet relevant.

It is no easy thing to resist the lure of easy gold. To resist the urge to get yours while the getting is good. To do better. To go higher.

Telluride is the destination. An amazing music festival is the reward.


(Thinking of posting to New Depression Telluride Bluegrass Festival Blog Contest .)

Tightening our (gun) belts

 Man standing with gun and ammunition belt

On 15 April I joined the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party movement to protest high taxes, higher federal spending, and general disrespect for the Constitution of the United States of America.  It felt good.

I also know that along with rights come responsibilities.  Times are tough all over and it is difficult to see services we use being cut.  Government provides many essential services, and many things that just make our communities nicer places to live.

I doubt many people consider the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) an “essential service”.  According to their website:

The Minnesota Historical Society is chief caretaker of Minnesota’s story—and the History Center is home to the Society’s vast collections. Within its archives reside artifacts ranging from American Indian moccasins and artwork to furniture and photographs, Civil War-era flags and a wealth of geneaological information. All of it is accessible today and for future generations.

I love history and I love the Historical Society, and I am a paid member.  However, they really are the last part of “public health, safety and welfare”;  not surprisingly among the first to be cut.  MHS announced today a planned 16% cut to their budget for next fiscal year, starting 1 July 09.

Minnesota Historical Society Announces Plans for a Potential 16-Percent Budget Reduction

All programs and facilities will remain in full operation until a final plan is adopted

The Minnesota Historical Society announced plans today for a potential 16-percent overall budget reduction, beginning July 1, 2009, which would result in layoffs and reduced services to the people of Minnesota. The plan is based on expected cuts in the Society’s funding from the state of Minnesota, as well as the effects of the current economic downturn. The reduction was developed in anticipation of serious budget shortfalls during the Society’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

A final decision on the Society’s state funding levels is expected in late May when Governor Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature announce an overall state budget for the upcoming biennium, which also begins July 1. In January, the Governor’s budget plan contained a 15-percent reduction to the Society’s operating budget. The Minnesota House recommended a reduction of nearly 10 percent earlier this month, and the Minnesota Senate recommended a seven-percent reduction this week.  

In addition, the Society is projecting a 20-percent shortfall in its non-state revenues over the next two years, due to declines in admissions, sales, charitable gifts and investments.

“We know that Minnesotans value the work of the Historical Society,” says Nina Archabal, director. “Our main objective in meeting the challenges of today’s economic downturn is to continue to preserve the state’s history and educate the state’s schoolchildren and adults.”

Since October, 2008, the Society has been engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning process. This process provided guidance in developing the proposed budget reductions.

The planned budget reductions would result in less public access to the Society’s services, programs and facilities.  It also would affect the Society’s work to preserve the state’s history.

Layoffs would occur for 94 full- and part-time employees, and an additional 223 employees would have their hours reduced.  In total, 317 individuals would be affected, or 46 percent of the Society’s staff, including individuals that work directly with the public, as well as people that support public programs and preservation statewide.

Some of my favorite MHS sites are on the chopping block.  Three sites will be mothballed 1 July 09:

More sites would see access and hours cut back, including Jeffers Petroglyphs near Comfrey, MN, which I recently wrote about on JohnScout blog.

These are great places.  I visited Historic Forestville last summer.  It’s a ghost town down in the Drifless Hills of Southeast Minnesota, south of Rochester.  Living history players act out original characters, literally bringing history to life.  I would love to participate on a regular basis if I lived closer…and dropped seven or eight other hobbies to make time.  One of those hobbies I’ve picked up of late is participating in Mountain Man Rendezvous, with their black powder rifles and tomahawk throws and leather britches over cast iron.  The Fur Post at Pine City recreates the world of 1804 and the European, American and Ojibwe fur trade.  Picture me lost and dreaming in buckskins.

I am a bit concerned about this bit at the end of the press release:

Also pending is a decision on how proceeds from the Legacy Amendment will support history education and programming. The constitutional amendment, which was passed by voters in November 2008, calls for funds to preserve Minnesota’s history as a way to supplement, rather than substitute for, current funding and programs. The Minnesota History Coalition, representing historical organizations statewide, including the Society, has recommended that 50 percent of the funding for the Arts and Cultural Heritage portion of the amendment be dedicated to statewide history education and preservation.

I could be cyncial and say it’s all posturing to get dedicated funding.  I won’t.

I could fuss and fume, and put on a big pout.  I’ve driven by the Lindbergh property several trips, each time telling myself “I’ll stop next time.”  Now there won’t be a “next time.”  These places are important to me and a big benefit to living in the state of Minnesota. 

I could get angry, pull out the big guns, and demand my rights.  But I won’t. 

When times are tough we all have to tighten our belts and do our share.  What I’m going to do is clear my calendar for the 2nd half of June after I get home from Scout camp.  I’m going to plan a drive to Pine City before the Northwest Company Fur Post closes.  Maybe I’ll go through Little Falls, or at least make a stop at Jeffers Petroglyphs on my way.  I’m going to look for a book from the MHS bookstore to buy and read after the first of July.  I’m going to save so I can renew my membership.  I’m going to put my money where my mouth is….

Right after I write a letter to my Representative, my Senator, the Governor about cutting (my) taxes and (somebody else’s) spending.

(Cross-posted at JCShepard.com).

Play Ball!

1:20 PM CDT
Cubs home opener

In memory of Harry Caray, “A One, A Two, A Three!  Take Me Out To The Ball Game…”

Bodies of Water

Stream Trout general fishing season opens in Minnesota 18 April 2009. Until then, we have time to study the maps, tie our flies and dream our boyhood dreams of bodies of moving water….


In Praise of The Rocking R Bar

The Bozeman Chronicle has HAD a nice memorial to the Rocking ‘R Bar, which was destroyed in the explosion that gutted East Main Street on the 5th of March.

For more than a century, one building, near the corner of Bozeman Avenue and Main Street, has been a fixture of the town’s watering holes.  Historic photographs of downtown Bozeman depict a bar at this location as far back as the 1890s, and, according to local folklore, it’s always been known as the Rocking ’R Bar.

The Rocking ‘R was the kind of Third Place that a community needs to, well, build community.  I never spent alot of time there myself, but it was a place that townies and college kids could gather and let off steam.  It’s the sort of place that you can bring your parents to before the Homecoming Football game, then go back with your roomies that night for a hoot and a holler.

Urban planners love Third Places, but we seem to hate bars.  We love places where people can gather informally, socialize, build relationships.  We hate places that are loud and rowdy and obnoxious.  We carefully separate uses, require minimum parking ratios and rigid Food : Liquor sales ratios.  Then we wonder why we don’t have neighborhood taverns even though we’ve purposefully regulated the places into sprawldom.

Sometimes we’re too smart for our own good.  Raise a glass and sing praises of ancient days.

[Corrected when @BozChron took off the elink to the article 😦  This blog has a good sketch of the facades destroyed. ]

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