If the joyous sounds of foot-tappin' music and storytelling bring a smile to your face, then the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown is absolutely your jam. Bigger and better than ever, the three-day Meltdown celebrates its 23rd year April 21 through 23. This year, the lineup features five nationally-acclaimed groups, five regionally-recognized names, and no less than 15 100-percent certified organic Durango troupes.
For the full schedule, please visit durangomeltdown.com. For a quick-n-dirty rundown, keep reading to find out who's playing, where to listen, where to learn, what not to miss, and where you're more than welcome to BYO instrument and get down with the Meltdown.
Durango Bluegrass Meltdown tickets are FREE for kids 12 and under. For everyone else, Weekend Passes are $90 and include entry into all Meltdown sponsored venues all three days; ticket price rises to $100 at the door. For Saturday only, tickets are $60, and for Sunday, only $40. Click here to purchase tickets.
With the edgy soul of Town Mountain representing Appalachia and the Kathy Kallick Band embodying West Coast bluegrass, Meltdown musicians represent the full gamut of Americana. Whiskey-soaked evenings open to Sunday-morning gospel. Jeff Scroggins wows first-time listeners with his internationally-acclaimed, lightning-fast fingers as a two-time National Banjo Champion. And names like Savage Hearts and Quicksand Soup spark the imagination.
In particular, one Colorado-based band, Rapidgrass, might as well be the spirit animal of the modern acoustic bluegrass movement. Led by pro-skier, Mark Morris, on guitar and vocals, these guys find their inspiration from the mountains and whitewater rapids of the great outdoors, "influenced by an active, outdoor lifestyle."
And don't forget some of our hometown heroes, like the Six Dollar String Band, The Badly Bent, La La Bones, Lawn Chair Kings, and newbies, StillHouse Junkies, who started playing together in winter '17.
Checkout bio's and more here. If you don’t recognize any of these names, fear not; the all-volunteer Meltdown board of directors doesn’t disappoint. They have 22 years under their belts and a reputation for picking some of the best, almost-famous musicians in the country. So trust the selection and just go.
Where to Listen:
The Meltdown melts faces at five venues in downtown Durango: The Balcony Backstage, Historic Strater Hotel & Henry Strater Theatre, Powerhouse Science Center, Wildhorse Saloon, and Durango Arts Center. If you can't make any of the main shows, check out the More Grass Schedule that features both bluegrass and other locally-grown sounds at downtown bars throughout the weekend.
If you have zero interest in paying money to listen to all of this honky-tonk twang and those pickin' strangs and lilting harmonies, then make your way to the Strater Hotel, where musicians will be jamming from morning till midnight in the lobby, on the stairs, in the hallways, and beyond.
Also FREE this weekend is the two-hour kickoff show on Friday at the Powerhouse and the Showcase on Saturday between noon and five at the Balcony Backstage--not to mention all of the busking and spontaneous plucking gracing Main Ave throughout the weekend.
Where to Learn:
Workshops take place on Saturday and Sunday in the Pullman Room downstairs at the Strater Hotel. These classes are led by the “main heavy-hitters of the weekend,” says Tommy Frederico, president of the Bluegrass Meltdown board of directors. “It’s basically a one-on-one group workshop ... about as intimate as it gets.
What Not to Miss:
The hardest part of your weekend will be choosing what show to experience on Saturday night. At the Henry Strater Theatre, festival musicians gather backstage, introduce themselves to one another, and start playing music together. For three hours, guests enjoy watching a band thrown together spontaneously. It’s what they call a Super Jam.
Meanwhile, Danny Barnes will be entertaining young and old at the Durango Arts Center for a two-hour showcase of his mind-blowing skills.
And then there’s the Barn Dance with Six Dollar String Band at the Balcony Backstage. It’s free with your weekend wristband and $10 for everyone else. Why should you go? Because it’s a barn dance, and chances are real high you’ve never been.
Where to Play:
If your foot can’t help but tap and your fingers are itching to play with some fellow musicians, then get excited: the Meltdown isn’t short on chances to simply show up and jam, and the Strater Hotel lobby is the place to be, says Frederico.
“Get your instrument out, and play with anyone you want there. Jamming is open to the public in the lobby till midnight.”
Then the party moves downstairs until Frederico locks the doors around 3 or 4 in the morning. That’s super duper late for Durangoans, so get some shuteye this week and prepare your strings and souls for a weekend like no other. Yodelayheehoo!