The RIDE Festival – Telluride, CO

Through the Lens Magazine July 16, 2015 Review by Mike Bresnahan

The fourth annual The Ride Festival took place on July 11 and 12th in Telluride, Colorado. The town of Telluride is well known for its willingness and ability to handle large music-based festivals and manage them well, and this year’s RIDE Fest was no different. Attended by music fans from all over the country, the festival offered two full days of music, complimented by activities and fun for people and families of all ages.

The festival kicked off on Friday night with the free Sunset Concert at Mountain Village featuring Ayron Jones and The Way and The Temperance Movement. The Seattle-based Jones and his three-piece blues band opened the show with a strong set that was well received by the several hundred people in attendance. The Temperance Movement followed with a solid blues-driven offering of their own. Both bands would play again over the course of the weekend, with Ayron Jones and The Way playing late night on Saturday at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, opening for rock guitarist Eric McFadden & Friends, and the Temperance Movement playing the festival Main Stage on Saturday morning.

At 10 AM Saturday morning, The Ride Festival officially opened its gates at the Town Park stage. Several hundred festival-goers sprinted inside to claim their spots for the day with blankets, tarps, sunshades, and even tents. The elevated main stage was set right up against the base of the mountain, with the VIP area to the left of the stage, and food, drinks and other vending to the right. The back area of the festival had a Kid’s Tent offering free face painting by volunteers, and several other arts and crafts opportunities. Immediately behind the Kids Tent was a large open area where you could throw frisbees, footballs, baseballs, or just run around and enjoy yourself. The food options were excellent and varied, ranging from pizza and gyros to spicy noodles. Festival sponsors Telluride Brewing Company and the Georgia-based Sweetwater Brewing Company had the beer lines packed both nights, and Deep Eddy Vodka offered numerous cocktail options involving their signature product.

The music kicked off at 11 AM with Dorothy, an LA based modern rock band fronted by the talented Dorothy Martin. They were followed by Zella Day  and then The Temperance Movement. Trigger Hippy, featuring lead singer Joan Osbourne, singer-guitarist-keyboardist Jackie Greene, guitarist Guthrie Trapp, bassist Nick Govrick, and drummer Steve Gorman, hit the stage at 3 PM. After recovering from some early technical issues with Jackie Green’s microphone, they deliivered a soulful and bluesy hour of music that did not go unnoticed by the crowd. Jonny Lang followed with a high energy blues forward set of his own. It was refreshing to see Lang, who rose to fame at age 16 through his album and single “Lie to Me”, all grown-up and still putting on a great performance.

Gov’t Mule was up next and as usual, did not disappoint. Taking the stage around 6:30, the Mule ripped through an hour and a half long set that featured several Beatles and John Lennon covers, including “She Said She Said”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and “Working Class Hero”. Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring joined the band onstage to lend a few notes to the Allman Brothers song “Dreams” before closing with Al Green’s “I’m a Ram” with another nod to the Beatles sandwiched in between verses in “Love Me Do”. While the set was short on original Mule material, it was by no means a letdown and got the crowd loosened up for the night’s headliner, Widespread Panic.

 

About 20 minutes after Gov’t Mule left the stage, Widespread Panic came out to the biggest cheers of the night. With the sun finally down, the stage lights bouncing off the trees behind the stage made for a great visual addition to the music. After opening with Van Morrison’s “Send Your Mind”, the band ripped through the first hour of their set, punctuated by “Fishwater” and their newer cover tune “Sell Sell”.  A nod in memory of Panic’s long time equipment manager Garrie Vereen, came midway through the set in “Gimme” as the lyrics were slightly altered to say “Gimme a hand here Garrie”. Gimme was followed by one of their newest songs “Angels Don’t Sing the Blues”. The highlight of the night was an extended version of  “Second Skin”, which had a nice long jam in the middle of the song as well as the outro. After a brief break for most of the band during drummer Duane Trucks and percussionist Sonny Ortiz’s drum solo, Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes joined Widespread Panic on stage for the last two songs of the night, “Blackout Blues” and a beautiful cover of Traffic’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”. Unfortunately there was no encore Saturday night due to time restrictions, but Widespread Panic usually leaves the crowd wanting more no matter what. We knew we would see them again tomorrow!

The fun continued well into the evenings as several bands played post-festival shows at the various music venues around Telluride both Saturday and Sunday night, for the Night Ride portion of the Festival. The Night Ride bands included Bloodkin, The Band of Heathens, Trigger Hippy, and North Mississippi Allstars, who would be playing the Ride Festival Main Stage on Sunday as well.

Camping in Town Park was another great part of the overall Telluride festival experience. The Town Park camping staff did a tremendous job of keeping the 2 AM to 8 AM campground quiet hours respectfully enforced.  Running water, showers, non-portable bathrooms, and power strips for charging cell phones and other digital needs are amenities that are not usually common when it comes to camping, were all made available to campers. The campground staff was also very friendly and considerate. Plus, being able to hear the music coming from the stage at your campsite was another huge benefit, especially for those who brought kids and couldn’t attend the whole lineup of bands each day.

Sunday’s Main Stage lineup included Mike Farris from 11 AM to noon, the Swedish female trio Baskery from 12:30 to 1:30 PM, followed by Canada’s Current Swell. Nashville’s Moon Taxi came on at 3:30 and really got the crowd going. Their set included a nod to the Grateful Dead, who celebrated their 50th anniversary with shows in the previous two weekends, when they launched into “Scarlet Begonias”. It wasn’t just the crowd that enjoyed Moon Taxi’s performance. When the North Mississippi Allstars took the stage at 5 PM, one of the first comments from NMAS singer/guitarist Luther Dickinson was about how much he enjoyed their set. The North Mississippi Allstars tore through an up tempo set of dirty blues songs highlighted by R.L. Burnside’s “Snake Drive” and Hambone Willie Newbern’s “Rollin and Tumblin”. They also brought out former Parliament Funkadelic and current Stockholm Syndrome guitarist Eric McFadden to sit in for a song mid-set.

After an hour long dinner break, but still an hour earlier from their start time the previous night, Widespread Panic took the stage one last time to close out the RIDE Festival. A nice extended intro to crowd favorite “Hatfield” kicked off the set and featured the always appreciated “rap” from singer John Bell in the song’s latter stages. Their set was heavy with songs from their upcoming 12th studio album “Street Dogs” due out September 25th, including “Steven’s Cat”, “Cease Fire” and “Jamais Vu”. Luther and Cody Dickinson from NMAS joined Panic on stage for “Ride Me High” and “Tail Dragger”, with Luther on guitar and Cody on his electric washboard – one of the more unique instruments out there from both a visual and sound perspective. The two hour and 45 minute Panic set was highlighted by a large sandwich of Panic classics starting with “Driving Song” before segueing into “Chilly Water”, “Papa’s Home” another Trucks/Ortiz drum solo, back into “Papa’s Home” and then back into “Driving Song”. Eric McFadden made his second appearance of the night on the Main Stage, joining the band for an extremely funky version of “Arleen” and then closing out the set with “Red Hot Mama”. There was enough time for an encore this night, and Panic closed the festival with their newer cover “Honkey Red” followed by the Talking Head’s “City of Dreams”.

As stated previously, Telluride really has the festival game down cold, and the RIDE Festival was no exception. As hosts to other events similar in size and complexity like the Telluride Film Festival, Bluegrass Festival, Jazz Festival and Blues and Brews Festival, this little mountain town sure knows how to throw a party. While The RideFestival might be the newest of the festivals listed above, it sure seems like it’s going to be around for many years to come, if they can continue to book the kind of bands that made the trip this year. It was hard to pack up and head home on Monday morning. As Panic sings in their song “Postcard”, which was actually written about Telluride: “This town is nuts, my kind of place, I don’t ever wanna leave”.

 

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