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Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Bluegrass may have evolved from country's "mountain music," with bands like Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, but Colorado's Telluride Bluegrass Festival added another layer to the genre beginning in 1973.
Traditional bluegrass bands from across the nation played the festival from the start, but when contemporary Colorado bands that had never previously played bluegrass started adding the quintessential instruments—mandolin, fiddle, guitar, upright bass, and banjo—to their lineups, their adoption of the "high lonesome sound" garnered national attention. It forced bluegrass to undergo several transformations, sometimes right before audience's eyes in Telluride, as the bands' enthusiasm prompted more and more experimentation.
As the festival gained in popularity, it brought more artists to Colorado, who came for the music and stayed for the agreeable climate and focus on nature that tie in so well with bluegrass's folksy sensibilities. Crossover between rock and bluegrass and other musical styles became more common, and the festival began to earn the moniker "Woodstock of the West." Colorado bands such as String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, and Yonder Mountain String Band performed regularly at the event, appealing to a younger audience and encouraging more experimentation.
Now the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June draws such popular acts as Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Los Lobos, and Counting Crows. It has also spawned other popular and successful gatherings, including its sister festival held each July at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, a town of about 1,600 that has become a bluegrass artists' colony of sorts. In fact, most evenings throughout the summer you can wander the streets and hear impromptu porch jams, and the planned picking jams happen almost nightly at places such as Oskar Blues, where sometimes dozens of pickers will show up to play. The towns of Greeley and Pagosa Springs have gotten in on the act, too, both hosting bluegrass festivals in August.
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