This past weekend, it was virtually impossible to find parking in town, as many festival goers were in town for the 27th annual Telluride Blue & Brews Festival, which marked its return after the cancellation linked to the 2020 pandemic.
At the time, festival director Steve Gumble said “we believe our community and our festival will come back stronger than ever in 2021”.
His prediction turned out to be prophetic, as this year’s festival quickly sold out.
The lineup included headliners Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Taj Mahal and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
Like most festivals in 2021, COVID-19 restrictions were in place and implemented throughout the weekend. Guests had to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test in order to attend the festival. Masks were required for all indoor sites, regardless of vaccination status, per the San Miguel County ordinance. Additionally, new for the festival in 2021, credit cards could be registered to bind to a participant’s bracelet to provide a more secure, contactless experience.
The performances again took place on three stages: the main stage of the city park, the Blues stage of the ice rink and the more intimate camping sessions.
Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, a solo artist and multi-instrumentalist, has performed sets at the Blues Stage and Campground Sessions. By mastering the banjo, guitar, piano, violin, harmonica, Cajun accordion and percussion, he defines himself as an âathlete with small musclesâ.
âI had a great time at the camping stage,â said Paxton. âThese people were there for a different reason. They were connectingâ¦ and these are my parents.
Paxton was happy to be in Telluride and return to festivals after the pandemic. He was also delighted to see other musicians, like his good friend Taj Mahal.
âIt’s nice to be in such a beautiful place to play music. These mountains are quite enchanting. â¦ Being outside and surrounded by a lot of people is enough to make folk musicians feel like big stars, âhe said.
Jeff Dazey, who has been the saxophonist for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats for the past four years, also came to Telluride in 2014 for the Ride Fest with JJ Gray & Mofro. After his first visit, Dazey recalled “feeling like it was heaven on Earth living my dream of playing in a big band amid incredible lineup and with beautiful, natural scenery to boot”.
For Dazey, what sets the Telluride Blue & Brews Festival apart from other venues and festivals he’s performed at is the beauty of the surrounding area and Colorado itself.
âTelluride, in general, is one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States, and I have been fortunate enough to see many more,â he said. âThe way the city and the festival stage are positioned in the valley surrounded by a magnificent landscape of mountain peaks is an incredible sight. That, coupled with the music and culture of Colorado, makes it a bucket list goal for music fans and musicians. “
The culture and history of the blues was no more evident than on the stages of the ice rink and the campgrounds, where legendary musicians accompanied each other, including some who attended the festival through the Music Makers Relief Foundation. The non-profit organization was founded in 1994 and is “dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of southern music be recognized and meet their daily needs,” according to founders Tim and Denise Duffy, according to a statement on the festival’s website. .
While this is not the first year that the organization has partnered with the festival, for many artists in the organization this year was their first time at Telluride. Atlanta musician Herman Hitson, 78, was one such artist. Hitson has performed with some of the biggest names in music history including Bobby Womack, Wilson Pickett, Major Lance, and Jackie Wilson. He also played Woodstock in 1969 with Jimi Hendrix.
âThis is my first time at Telluride,â Hitson said. “I have never been this high before.”
Besides Hitson, this year’s founding artists also included Albert White, who performed with James Brown for over 30 years, and the Gospel Comforters, whose members include Rock & Roll Hall of Famers members Tony Grady and Michael Grady Sr. .
Festival goer Balazs Jarai said he continues to meet wherever Music Makers musicians perform because they represent “the soul, history, culture, authenticity and truth in music.”
Sunday’s long-awaited grand finale was the âsuper jamâ with Lukas Nelson. Surprise guest Jewel joined Nelson on stage, along with Rateliff, the Allman Betts Band, Larkin Poe, Jamestown Revival and Amythyst Kiah.
According to a Facebook post, the Telluride Blues & Brews team were “absolutely speechless” after the festival ended and wanted to thank “a big thank you to everyone for an amazing weekend.”