Rendezvous Music Fest in Beaver Creek mingles old with new in an eclectic lineup
Rendezvous Music Festival Lineup
5 p.m. – Evening in the Rockies cocktail reception, Beaver Creek Club
6 p.m. – Jackopierce, Michaelis, and Rodeo and Juliet, various locations
12:15 p.m. – Kylie Rae Harris, Strawberry Park
1 p.m. – Langhorne Slim, Strawberry Park
2 p.m. – Paper Bird, Strawberry Park
3 p.m. – Wade Bowen, Strawberry Park
4:05 p.m. – Dawes, Strawberry Park
5:30 p.m. – Jason Isbell, Strawberry Park
7:30 p.m. – Jackopierce, Vilar Center
8:15 p.m. – Andrew Ripp, Vilar Center
9:15 p.m. – Patty Griffin, Vilar Center
The Saturday pass (Strawberry Park and Vilar Center concerts) is $95 (plus a service fee, but if you enter the promo code “BeThere14” at check out, you will receive a discount of $20). General admission tickets for the Strawberry Park concerts only are $35 (plus a service fee, but if you enter promo code “BeThere14” at check out, you will receive a $10 discount). Full weekend passes are sold out. Entry at both venues is open to all ages. To purchase tickets or find out more, see the festival website at http://www.rendezvousbc.com. Tickets can be purchased at https://rendezvous.frontgatetickets.com.
Somewhere, somehow, Cary Pierce thinks music festivals lost sight of the music.
As one half of Jackopierce, his longtime acoustic duo with Jack O’Neill, Pierce has seen festivals grow and expand until they’re almost unpalatable. The scene is hardly enticing: It’s a young couple huddled for warmth in a grimy, mud-strewn field, surrounded by thousands of fans clamoring to catch a far-off glimpse of one or two bands.
“I keep threatening to do this, but I want to create a picture of a guy and girl, standing under a sleeping bag in the pouring rain, that says, ‘Is this your festival experience?’” Pierce laughs.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza experiences. Those marquee festivals still draw hordes of music lovers — Lollapalooza saw roughly 160,000 attendees in early August — and Pierce is no stranger to sharing the stage with massive, festival-friendly acts like John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band. When Jackopierce had its first taste of mainstream success in the late ’90s, he and O’Neill opened for Matthews at Vail’s Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, just a few months after the rock-jam god rocketed to international stardom with his first full-length live album from Red Rocks.
But Pierce is serious about sifting through the mud and gunk and crowds to reach a different breed of festival fanatics. Enter the Rendezvous Music Festival, a two-day festival now in its second year at Beaver Creek, with concerts spread between Strawberry Park, the Vilar Performing Arts Center and several private homes across the valley. The music starts today but mainly takes place Saturday in Beaver Creek.
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AN eclectic lineup
When Jackopierce takes the Vilar Center stage Saturday night, they’ll play for a crowd drawn by fellow veterans like folk singer Patty Griffin and Alabama-born guitarist Jason Isbell, not to mention buzzworthy up-and-comers like singer-songwriter Andrew Ripp and the all-female acoustic trio Michaelis.
The Rendezvous lineup is boldly eclectic — few festivals can survive without unlikely additions — but each act makes sense together. They give audiences a taste of the modern Nashville sound, from the poetic vocals of Isbell to the intricate, folk-infused guitars of Strawberry Park co-headliner Dawes.
For Pierce, it’s almost perfectly in line with his definition of a true festival experience: pure, unadulterated live music in an unforgettable setting, plus all the little perks that come with it.
“I don’t think we’ve ever played a festival like this,” said Pierce, who joined O’Neill last year for the inaugural round of concerts. “So many festivals now are about shoving as many people into an area as you can. They become a numbers game. This is a boutique sort of thing, a cultivated, procured experience, and a lot of people are willing to pay that premium to have that experience.”
Music meets pinot noir
Rendezvous is a natural extension of the destination festivals Jackopierce has played since reuniting in 2002, when they abandoned a hectic road schedule to focus on intimate events in exclusive locales like Aspen and Sonoma, California. Two weeks after leaving Beaver Creek, Pierce and O’Neill will head to Napa Valley for the official release of Weather Pinot Noir, the band’s 1,100-case line of private wine named after a track from the 1990 self-titled debut.
Sure, private pinot noir may not fit the music festival mold — AC/DC’s Back in Black Shiraz notwithstanding — but it’s lead-in to the festival experience Pierce enjoys. He thrives on the informal back-and-forth only found on the road. During the Rendezvous weekend, Pierce will stop by the Weather wine tent to chat with fans between tastings of the vino, a 2012 vintage from the region’s Russian River Valley.
It’s not only a simple way for Pierce to spice-up the downtime — it’s also a low-key way to mingle with music lovers in one of his favorite Colorado towns.
“It’s a very Rocky Mountain-friendly sound we have, with our acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies,” said Pierce, who regularly plays solo gigs across the country, including a recent set at 4 Eagle Ranch for a local nonprofit. “We have such great memories of the Vail area over the years. It just feels like home for us.”
While Jackopierce, Ripp and several others make return appearances at the festival, big-name act Dawes is coming to Beaver Creek for the first time. The L.A.-based folk act is relatively young, especially when placed next to co-headliners like Griffin and Jackopierce, but the four-piece has built a feverish following since tapping the cultural zeitgeist with their 2009 debut, “North Hills.” It only helps that they’ve collaborated with a few of the biggest names in folk rock, from Conor Oberst to Chris Robinson, of the Black Crows.
“Every inspiration is a filter. You take those things you enjoy, then try to recreate it in your own way,” drummer Griffin Goldsmith said. “I don’t think, ‘This sounds like Tom Petty’ or ‘This sounds like Bruce Springsteen’ or whatever. We always want people to hear us and say, ‘That sounds like Dawes.’ You know it’s us.”
And rapid-fire fame hasn’t diluted the Dawes sound, which pulls from old-school Laurel Canyon influences like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. It’s a near-perfect soundtrack for the open-air venue at Strawberry Park: Taylor Goldsmith’s hypnotizing vocals and chord progressions float over clean piano, heartbeat bass lines and driving percussion. In a live festival setting, tunes like “When My Time Comes” and “A Little Bit of Everything” touch on genres from folk to rock to bluegrass, all without overwhelming the band’s stripped-down live show.
“So many live shows today are so grandiose,” said Taylor Goldsmith, who recently wrapped up a European tour with modern folk legend Conor Oberst. “Personally, the thing that gets me really excited with a live show is when I just see the backdrop and the band. Your attention is on one place, one place only, and I really like that.”
‘Find something new’
Wade Bowen shares that mindset. After almost two decades on the touring circuit, the Texas-born singer-songwriter has seen the same bloated festival excess Pierce and Taylor Goldsmith try to avoid. He doesn’t loathe onstage smoke and mirrors, but that kind of bombast doesn’t fit his style of music and, while Saturday marks his first concert at the Strawberry Park venue, he knows it would hardly feel natural.
“I think there’s something to artists that have lights and that theatricality, the guys who can use it to enhance their shows. It can be beautiful,” Bowen said. “But I also think it’s beautiful when people can hop on stage and have an intimate moment with the crowd. I try to get that perfect blend of energy and intensity.”
Bowen’s newest release, a self-titled album set for an Oct. 28 release, takes cues from his live show. It’s more upbeat than past albums, which showcased his ear for country-laced ballads and complexly emotional lyrics. His latest single, “When I Woke Up Today,” has the trademarks of a rollicking country-rock hybrid: honest lyrics, stomping percussion and raw guitars.
With any luck, Rendezvous will take after Bowen. Those little diversions from the usual — a Springsteen-inspired guitar lick here or, say, a pinot noir tasting there — can keep audiences coming back, no mud required.
“When we get to play festivals, we get exposed to Patty’s audience and Jason’s audience and the Dawes audience and everyone else,” Pierce said. “It’s one of the cool things about festivals: People buy tickets with the mindset of, ‘I want to enjoy this music and find something new.’”