Red Rocks and Bluegrass with YMSB, RRE and more!

Once again Summer Camp came through with yet another photo pass to Red Rocks. This time for the bluegrass extravaganza headlined by Scamp veterans Yonder Mountain String Band. They did an amazing job putting together a stellar supporting lineup with Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters filling out the bill. I have been waiting for this show for months and was totally stoked when I went to grab my pass at the booth. There was a rumor floating around online that Red Rocks would be releasing an additional 500 tickets. With the show selling out just the day prior there were literally hundreds of kids out roaming the lot with their respective fingers in the air. So by the time I got back down to will call around 5 PM there was a huge line of eager fans, but as I got to the window a representative came out stood on a boulder and let everyone know that the show was officially sold out. I found out from her that they only released 50 tickets rather than the bruited 500.

I quickly headed back up the hill because the doors were already open and I didn’t want to miss my chance to shoot The Infamous Stringdusters who were up first. J-Man and I made our way down to the pit and I was immediately struck by how many dear friends I was surrounded by. I noticed local videographer and documentarian Eric Abramson on stage with his trusty camera. He is my personal hero and everything I aspire to be, look out for his upcoming doc on Scramble Campbell entitled ScrambleVision. I looked up into the quickly forming crowd to see Roach, Wildo with the Team Shit Show Crew, and a ton of pink vests in honor of far too young fallen Yonder fan Lilli Trippe who recently lost her battle with a rare form of childhood leukemia. Her story is truly heartbreaking but the show of support from not only YMSB but also their fanbase is very inspiring. RIP Lilli. You can read more about her story and also make a tribute to Lilli at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lilli.

So as the Stringusters made their way a call of “Let the fun and games begin,” was belted through the PA. They opened with a searing version of Fork In The Road; here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.

SET I: Fork In The Road, Black Rock, Get It While You Can, Ain’t No Way Of Knowing, Hitchhiker, Walking On The Moon, It Don’t Mean Nothing, How Far I’d Fall For You, In God’s Country, Can’t Put Out The Fire, Steam Powered Aereo Plane, Rain

You can download the audience recording on ARCHIVE. (Hyperlink – http://www.archive.org/details/isd2011-08-20) Thanks to Gerry Gladu for posting and posting quickly I might add. (Hyperlink – http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22gerry+gladu%22)

When you are in the pit at Red Rocks it is very much a dance with the other photogs. You grab you shot and move on and try not to get in each other’s way. It was a lot of fun working with J-man and some of the other unbelievable local shooters Tobin Voggesser and Rob Tobin (no relation.) The Infamous Stringdusters seem to give a sense of real authenticity in their picking. They were steeped in the old-timey goodness that defines what real bluegrass is all about. They floated around each other in a fluid dance as each took their turn for solos while really listening to what the others were playing. They maintained a certain reverence for this genre’s true aspirations. The early arrivers were treated to a cavalcade of pure bluegrass. Songs like their version of the Police’s Walking On The Moon, In God’s Country, John Hartford’s Steam Powered Aereo Plane, and the show closing Rain were amazing to watch. I was very happy with their set and will definitely be on the lookout for their next journey to Colorado.

Railroad Earth is quickly becoming one of the most dynamic bluegrass acts on the circuit today. They are simply mesmerizing and they have the ability to basically stun their audience. They were certainly in contention for MVPs of the night and I would go so far as to say that they stole the show. YMSB has been playing this yearly pilgrimage to Red Rocks for quite some time now, but the supporting lineup this time around went a long way in helping them sell out their home venue. While J-man and I were in the Lot I asked him to hit up Tim Carbone and ask if they were planning on playing Like A Buddha mainly because I’ve geeking out on it recently, he texted him back with a, “We’ll see,” type answer. As we settled in the pit for our shots that is exactly what they decided to open their set with. I couldn’t help but give J-man a quick fist bump between photos. Here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.

SET I: Like a Buddha> The Jupiter and The 119, Potter’s Field, Warhead Boogie> Head, Black Elk Speaks, Bird in a House, 1759

You can listen to Gerry Gladu’s Recording on Archive. Thanks Gerry. (http://www.archive.org/details/rre2011-08-20)

The crowd was going absolutely nuts as I spent the first couple songs taking my pictures. RRE has a very distinct sound and twang to their style, it’s almost hypnotic and while you are dancing to it, it’s so easy to get swept up into the emotion of the song. They know how to bring dynamism to their songs erupting into a cacophony of sound before ripping out the bottom for some minimalist jams. There is no question this is by far the best Railroad Earth set that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing from the folk rock of The Jupiter and The 119 to the almost Celtic styling on Potter’s Field, they started very strong. The Warhead Boogie into Head was in one word powerful. Tim Carbone’s violin adds a level of elegance and beauty to their songs and shows his versatility with each new number. The vocals of Todd Sheaffer are definitely distinctive, he does such a good job of annunciating and really pushing out each lyric, however the most impressive player of the night may have been Andy Goessling who is such a talented multi-instrumentalists that he can singlehandedly shift RRE’s sound depending on what he plays. They closed with a barn burning 1759. It was just a jaw-dropping set from start to finish, I was filled with a level of admiration and excitement for Railroad Earth that I have been missing when I saw them previously. They are certainly on fire and have just announced a three-night stand at The Ogden for New Year’s. Denver very much appreciates this RRE.

“… And now it’s our turn to get to play the family picnic.” – Jeff Austin

The only word to describe Yonder Mountain String Band’s performance at Red Rocks this year is energetic. From start to finish they came out with the fire in their fingers and created a set to please. People have complained that the last few years have seen lackluster performances from YMSB; this was not the case on this particular evening at The Edge. They opened with a scorching What The Night Brings; again here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.

SET I: What The Night Brings, Night Out, Criminal, Easy As Pie, Pretty Daughter, Complicated, Ten> Shake Me Up> Ten, Town, Spanish Harlem, Little Lover, Little Rabbit, Sideshow Blues

SET II: East Nashville Easter, Finally Saw The Light, All The Time, Just The Same, Too Late Now, Pockets, Lord Only Knows, On The Run, Rain Still Falls, 40 Miles From Denver, Keep On Going, Dawns Early Light> Robots> Two Hits And The Joint Turned Brown> Keep On Going [reprise]

ENCORE: Southern Flavor, Shady Grove

You can stream or download the Gerry’s recording on Archive. (http://www.archive.org/details/ymsb2011-08-20)

Yonder passes around vocal duties like Germans pass around a boot of beer. They are like the power trio of bluegrass except that there are four of them, which is certainly a minimal lineup by any the genre’s standards. The crowd was packed and definitely a little wasted from what I could tell. After I took my photos I saw a girl b-line it over the rail by the stairs to let her dinner go, and truthfully I was a little taken aback. I guess in my 17 YMSB shows I never noticed how wasted some of the fans get. There was more than one story that floated through the ether about uncouth behavior from kids at the show. Other than that one incident I didn’t really see much else out of line but seriously guys be safe and take care of each other. Despite a few rumblings from the crowd the majority were there to have a great time with their favorite Colorado band. Yonder kept the energy level high with classic renditions of Criminal and Danny Barnes’ Pretty Daughter but the highlight of set one was the Ten sandwich with Shake Me Up as the meat of the hoagie.

At setbreak I went backstage, which was a surreal experience to say the least. I didn’t get down into the tunnel, but I did get up into the VIP lounge area. I took the opportunity to tell Todd and Tim from Railroad Earth that they played an incredible show and that I was very happy they were on a part of this stellar lineup. I settled down in the back corner and while the rest of the VIPs were ushered out I got ready to take some video, because when am I going to get this chance again? The bass rumblings of Kaufman got East Nashiville Easter started before they tore into the song. The sound was boomy backstage so as soon as I got my video I slipped up behind the main speakers for a few shots, before heading back out into the sea of people. All in all it was probably one of my best setbreaks at Red Rocks.
The set started a little slower than the first and saw Yonder sticking to more docile tunes. Although numbers like Too Late Now and Pockets showed glimpses of what was to come it wasn’t until On The Run literally erupted into a bluegrass volcano from which the rest of the set flowed like an ooze of magma-infused goodness. When the boys really kicked on the afterburners the rest of the set was remarkable. The Dawns Early Light into Robots into Two Hits into Keep On Going was the reason I continue coming back to see these guys. It was just a good time. They encored with punchy Southern Flavor before a beautiful Shady Grove. And just like that the 6 plus hours of bluegrass on the Rocks was over. As the kids shuffled out of the venue I couldn’t help but have a warm feeling in my stomach happy and full of pride for this great state I call home. Thanks again to Summer Camp for arranging my pass and giving me yet another astonishing opportunity to capture what I love for everyone out there. With summer coming to a close being at Red Rocks affirms everything I love about live music and I was happy to make the trip one more time.