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 links over there. 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’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’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 .)

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…”

Daily Yonder on Farm Broadband

Daily Yonder

Daily Yonder

Still gleaning data from the Census of Agriculture specific to Southwest Minnesota.  In the meantime, Blandin on Broadbandrefered to analysis and mapping done by Daily Yonder on the data for rural broadband use.  The initial USDA PR presented data as % of %, which is as annoying as it is bad statistics.  The picture will become more clear as more eyes scan the data.

Daily Yonder gives us a snapshot of broadband usage reported by farmers across the non-metro United States.  DY references a Pew survey that matches Census of Ag results for rural internet use.  I’m sceptical of some of the methodology for Census of Agriculture, so it’s nice to see the numbers line up with other sources.

There are patterns in the Census data. The most urban states have the most farms with broadband connection. Also, states with large farms also have a high percentage of operations with high speed connections. Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas are all well above the national average of broadband connection.

This paragraph immediately caught my critical eye.  If the most urban states are most wired, why are Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, etc above average?  DY goes on to note a dicotomy—broadband usage is also highest in counties with larger farms, which they assume will have greater incomes to afford broadband.

Let’s look at Colorado.  The top counties for farms with broadband are mountain resort counties:  Pitkin, Eagle, Mineral counties.  They do tend to skew the “real ag” statistics a bit.  So be it, Aspen doesn’t count.  Next on the list comes Phillips County, Colorado, at 66% broadband usage.  You’re not going to find many ski bums in Holyoke

No. 31 on the rural broadband list is Traill County, North Dakota.  Ah ha!  Of course the progressive farmers of the Red River Valley would be above average at 56% broadband usage.  Now, 15 years ago when I worked for the Traill County Economic Development Commission in Mayville, North Dakota, we were working with community leaders to provide basic local, toll-free dial-up connections.  The result was a couple aggressive local cooperatives providing service around Mayville and the county seat at Hillsboro who upset the incumbent telcos.  Kinda feel like a proud papa to see our hard work pay out.  Well, maybe a distant uncle since most of the heavy lifting came about after I moved on.

In Traill County, the average farm size is 1,182 acres, and there were 120 farms with reported annual sales of $500,000 or more.  Yet Traill County also had local ISPs willing to go the extra mile to provide service.  It’s alot easier to do business with real people rather than a cold distant voice of Ma Bell.  I expect as in most things we’re looking for that partnership of supply and demand.