With so many bands playing so many festivals in Colorado this summer, it’s hard to know who you want to make sure you see. Don’t fret. Below, we give you the must-see acts for this summer:
Hard Working Americans
Todd Snider is a hazy-eyed folk singer with a 14-album back-catalog full of witty tunes that spans two decades. The popular Nashville outsider and prolific stoner poet is also a huge jam band fan. Lately, Snider has been living out his fantasy to be in a psychedelic rock crew by fronting Hard Working Americans, a super group that includes Widespread Panic members Dave Schools on bass and Duane Trucks on drums, as well as guitarist Neal Casal of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
The band has been getting together for sporadic shows since an initial 2013 gig in Boulder, Colorado, and, the following year, it released a debut self-titled album that consists of hard-edged covers of some of Snider’s favorite fellow tunesmiths, including Gillian Welch and Hayes Carll. This summer, the group is touring behind “Rest in Chaos,” a sophomore effort that will be out May 13 and brings some of Snider’s original cosmic country lyrics to an experimental rock sound that’s all at once trippy, twangy, gritty and ready for improvisational tangents.
Appearing at: Arise
If you dig the minimalist power that comes from the work of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, check out this acoustic duo from the Triangle area of North Carolina. Partners Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz deliver poignant folk tunes that draw on a range of influences, including early Appalachian mountain songs and vintage country ballads. The group’s fourth and latest album, last year’s “Such Jubilee,” is full of introspective front-porch ruminations on road restlessness and personal redemption, delivered through sparse acoustic arrangements on guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
Appearing at: Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival
A Double Dose of Bela Fleck
Banjo wizard Bela Fleck rarely takes a rest. The inventive instrumentalist always has a full schedule, diving into a range of projects that take his nimble fingers through variations in bluegrass, jazz and even classical music. For the past few years Fleck has predominantly been touring with his wife, fellow banjo player and songstress Abigail Washburn, as a pair that focuses on folk songs and banjo duets. The couple will lead the Saturday line-up at Rockygrass, but that won’t be Fleck’s only appearance in Colorado this summer. The folks at Planet Bluegrass also booked him to play the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where he’ll take the stage in Town Park with the Flecktones, the popular jazz-fusion outfit that’s reuniting for its first shows since 2012. The band is only promising a short two-week reunion tour, with the Telluride appearance as the final night.
Appearing at: Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rockygrass
Put the vintage harmonies of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young within the modern context of ethereal indie folk and you get Darlingside. Originally formed as an a-capella group in college, the emerging Massachusetts quartet sing in pristine unity while rotating between a variety of mostly acoustic instruments. On the band’s latest album, last year’s “Birds Say,” introspective lyrics with soul-searching depth float above tastefully mellow chamber folk-pop tunes. Classically trained chops are easy to hear, but the band doesn’t instrumentally embellish. The dominant force here is the quietly intense power of joined voices.
Appearing at: Folks Festival
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
This new project combines Primus front man/gonzo bass virtuoso Les Claypool and multi-instrumentalist Sean Lennon (yep, son of John and Yoko). The two met last summer when Lennon’s band, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, opened for Primus. Informal back stage jam sessions led to the two new friends joining forces for six weeks to record what Claypool described as “an old-school, psychedelic/prog record.” With Claypool playing his usual mind-bending bass runs and Lennon handling both guitar and drums, the result, “Monolith of Phobos,” will be released on June 3. If the lead track, “Mr. Wright,” is any indication, the album is going to be a trippy odyssey full of experimental twists and turns—perfect sounds for losing yourself at a festival.
Appearing at: VERTEX