Best Bets: Telluride Bluegrass Festival

June 2013

The four-day pluck-and-soul-filled Telluride Bluegrass Festival celebrates its 40th year milestone this weekend. For four decades, bluegrass aficionados have retreated to the steep-peaked box canyon to witness performances from the most influential grass musicians. Between the bluesy folk and washboard breakdowns, here are some moments you won’t want to miss:

The Drepung Monks: Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery launch the festival with the commencement of a mandala sand painting, an intricate design created from millions of grains of colored sand. The monks will work through the weekend and complete the painting’s process on Sunday with its deconstruction. “It’s really a special treat to have them,” says Planet Bluegrass director of communications Brian Eyster about the monks, who performed at Bluegrass in 1992 and 2010. “They feel a connection to the festival and the people and the place. ...They walk around town with awestruck grins and it helps everyone reach that level of appreciation.” The group will also perform the Sunday morning gospel session.

Festival Grounds: Transgressive traditional bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters—recipients of three 2007 International Bluegrass Music Association awards in the band’s inaugural year, including Emerging Artist of the Year, Song of the Year for “Fork In the Road,” and a tie for Album of the Year for Fork in the Road—return to Bluegrass along with Colorado bands Yonder Mountain String Band, the String Cheese Incident, and Leftover Salmon.

Premiere Performance: Don’t miss Friday's main stage debut of on-the-rise band Lake Street Dive—a soulful jazz folk-and-pop quartet from Boston and headed by vocalist Rachael Price—who just finished touring with Yonder Mountain String Band in February.

Elks Park: Workshops and performances are held just .5-miles west of Town Park and are free and open to the public. Performances will include an appearance from Grammy award-winning double bassist and composer Edgar Meyer joined by his son, violinist and composer George Meyer, and a guided session on how to slow-jam from country duo Joan and Pete Wernick. Join the monk led mediation sessions on Friday and Saturday, or learn how to build instruments from master constructors, including Shanti Guitars’ head Michael Hornick and San Juan Mandolins' owner Bobby Wintrigham, on Saturday.

—Image courtesy of Benko Photographics