Music on the Colorado
364 days. That’s how long Andrew McConathy and his team have been working on this year’s YarmonyGrass Fest, which kicks off Friday at Rancho del Rio, four miles upstream from State Bridge. “Technically we’ve been planning this since the day the festival ended last year,” said McConathy, the festival’s founder. This year’s festival – the fifth annual – brings together an eclectic group of musicians – expect everything from bluegrass and Americana to folk, funk and electronica – for three days of music alongside the Colorado River.McConathy said organizers are expecting about 1,000 people for the event. Festivities kick off Friday with a kickball competition in the afternoon and an opening ceremony and barbecue slated for 4:30 p.m. The music starts at 5 p.m. with the “acoustic-laced dub” band Bonfire, led by Scotty Stoughton. Although Stoughton has been involved with the festival since its inception, helping the McConathy bring the festival from its former home at State Bridge to Rancho del Rio, but it’s the first time he’ll be on stage as a performer. “I enjoy the entire production – the bands and the family atmosphere,” Stoughton said. “I really believe in the event and think it’s something special. I was stoked when they invited us to play this year.”
Along with a few new faces, there’s a slew of bands returning to the festival for the third, fourth or even fifth time.Fresh off main stage performances at Red Rocks, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Rothbury, and just last weekend at Mile High Music Festival in Denver, Railroad Earth will headline the festival with performances Friday and Saturday. “This year’s Yarmony line-up once again is solidified by the side projects of Colorado’s very own String Cheese Incident,” McConathy said. “EOTO, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, The Contribution, and Bill Nershi & Scott Law with Tao Seeger (Pete Seeger’s grandson) will all play a large role in this year’s festival just two weeks after reuniting for three sold-out nights at Red Rocks as The String Cheese Incident.”Other notable acts include two rising bands from the Front Range: Head for the Hills and Elephant Revival, both which have performed at the festival before. Elephant Revival is making its third appearance in a row at YarmonyGrass and Head for the Hills will perform for the third time in four years. Honkytonk Homeslice, which was started by Nershi, returns for its fifth YarmonyGrass in a row, celebrating with a closing ceremony barbecue on Sunday afternoon.But it’s a new collaboration called The Contribution that really has McConathy excited, because he played a role in the band’s formation and produced its studio debut, “Which Way World,” released in April. The band, which performs Friday from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m., is made up of members of The String Cheese Incident, Railroad Earth and New Monsoon. “I’m super excited to see them play YarmonyGrass,” McConathy said. “It’s only their third concert ever.”
Along with music performed alongside the river, there will also be music performed in the river, on the YarmonyGrass Floating Stage. For the second year in a row, musicians will perform on a floating stage while the audience boats alongside in rafts and kayaks. “Last year we were trying to figure out something cool and unique to give the festival a nice twist,” McConathy said. “We were looking at festivals like Jam Cruise, where they’re taking thousands of people and tons of bands on a tropical cruise over the course of a few days. That’s where we got the idea for it.”While the float, a collaboration with the Colorado River Center, is technically sold out, McConathy said: “You can bring your own boat and we can’t tell you you can’t get in the river. It should be pretty fun out there.”The float starts at 1 p.m. Saturday and goes from Radium to Rancho del Rio. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.