Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top of The World Blues

Literally. Every year on the last full weekend of June, Winter Park, CO, is transformed into a Blues lover’s paradise. At 9000 feet above sea level, this June 24th opens the ninth year of Blues From the Top, another festival I WON’T miss. I know Telluride gets a lot of prestige and attention, but Winter Park is my favorite!

Before I go on to the myriad ways in which this festival is the pride of Colorado, I offer some practical advice. I live in Boulder, which is around 5500 feet above sea level. I’ve been here for 12 years, so I’m acclimated to the altitude. Until I go to Winter Park. Those additional 3500 feet can be tough. However, a couple of years ago I discovered ChlorOxygen, a chlorophyll concentrate which increases oxygenation. Beginning three weeks before the big weekend, I start taking it daily. It really helps. I have no interest in the company, nor am I a paid spokesperson. I offer you this link to make it easier on anyone wanted to minimize the effects of altitude.

Back to the Blues. From the Top. Although officially a two-day festival, it’s actually been three. In past years, things have kicked off Friday afternoon in the courtyard outside of Smokin’ Moe’s. Last year it was Curtis Salgado and Alan Hagar! Seriously! This year however, there will be a surprise in the park on Thursday, followed by concerts in the courtyard, so it’s now unofficially a four-day event.

The Friday afternoon music in the courtyard is followed by an all star jam at Smokin’ Moe’s that goes until very late. I’ve yet to make it through an entire jam, knowing that I need all my beauty sleep for Saturday. This year will be no exception. Beginning at 11:00 a.m. and concluding around 7:00 p.m., The Grand County Blues Society has secured yet another awe inspiring line up:
  • Michaela Rae
  • Dustin Pittsley
  • Mary Bridget Davies
  • Girls With Guitars, Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde
  • John Nemeth Soul Revue
  • Nick Moss and The Flip Tops, with brother Joe Moss
  • Ronnie Baker Brooks
And that’s just Saturday. Saturday night, again at Smokin’ Moe’s, is yet another all star jam. I’ve come close to making it through to the end, but I still know I have to be rested for the Sunday morning Gospel set. If memory serves, that begins at 10:30 a.m., and I’ve yet to miss it. For the last two years, my good friend, Delores Scott has headlined the Gospel set, and in such a magnificent setting, spiritual presence is evident every where you look. I know it’s hard to get up and out the door after such a late night, but it’s worth it. Always.

So here’s this year’s Sunday line up:
  • Ashley Cleveland Gospel with Reese Wynans
  • Sammy Mayfield
  • Joanne Shaw Taylor
  • Albert Cummings
  • Matt Schofield Trio
  • Jimmy Hall and Wet Willie
And once again, there will be an all star jam at Smokin’ Moe’s after the festival closes.

Now for some logistics. I usually stay at Beaver Village Condominiums, as do the musicians and probably 75% of the attendees, so we’re all there for the same reason. They are about a mile from the festival grounds and Smokin’ Moe’s, clean, and with fully functioning kitchens, making breakfast easy.

Last year I stayed at the Best Western across the street from all the Blues action, and the convenience was great. But I did miss having a kitchen in the morning. Both options are good, it just depends on one’s personal preference. For economics, the condo is the best option for groups of two or more. A two bedroom, two bathroom can comfortably sleep six, with two in each bedroom, one on the couch, and one on the floor (draw straws). Since the music is what the weekend is all about, the condo is just for sleeping and showering, so if saving money is a factor, get a group together. It’s also nice to run back to the condo after the festival concludes each day, to change clothes and grab some dinner before heading to Smokin’ Moe’s. Again, for the budget conscious, having a kitchen can save quite a bit of money over the course of the weekend.

Winter Park is truly beautiful country. The setting is stunning, with one breathtaking Rocky Mountain view after another. But there’s one view that only a few get to see. A couple of years ago, I was assisting my friend Diunna Greenleaf backstage, helping carry her CDs to the merchandise booth, keeping her hydrated, and generally just being there to help with whatever she needed. A few minutes before her set, she handed me her water bottle and asked me to put it at the base of her mic stand. I climbed the stairs to the stage, walked to the front and set the bottle down. As I straightened up, I gasped at what I saw. The view from that stage is what postcards are all about. For the first time I saw what the performers see while bringing us the Blues. It’s no wonder the performances are always so inspired!

I’ve never met a Blues Festival I didn’t like, but this one I love. Three (and now four)days of great Blues, tons of friends, old and new, a beautiful, serene setting, lots of great food, and all of the magical surprises that come along when a lot of talented people get together for a Blues-filled weekend. What’s not to love?  ~Honey Bee Sepeda~

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