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Unplugged

Erik Vienneau

“Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!”J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997Magic is in the air out at State Bridge Lodge. At least that’s the way the organizers of the County’s first-ever weekend-long acoustic festival see it.”State Bridge has a certain kind of magical setting,” says Colorado Grass Roots Music Festival promoter Dyanne Eckdahl. “We’ve all seen high-energy electrified concerts out there but there’s something magical about unplugging Sate Bridge. We think we can bring the experience to a more deep and natural level.”One does have to admit, if any venue in the valley says “unplug and chill out” it has to be State Bridge Lodge. Ten miles outside of Wolcott, bordered by the Colorado River and protected forest land, sprinkled with yurts, rustic cabins and plenty of free camping, springing for the weekend-long, $35 pass, seems the way to go. With more than 20 Colorado-based bands signed up for 45-minute acoustic sets on two stages the vibe at one of Colorado’s most unique venues will be temporarily altered from wild to mild Aug. 6 – 8.Rock, blues, singer/songwriters, alternative, folk, Celtic and bluegrass performers will all play un-amplified for the chance to be one of four bands selected to perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater next summer.The acts range from coffee shop performers who always play unplugged to alternative rockers who rarely get a break from ear-blasting electrified sound systems. Boulder-based Possum Logic usually packs the Fox Theater and local venues including the Sand Bar (formerly Half Moon Saloon) and State Bridge (they played with the North Mississippi Allstars earlier this summer) with their high-energy dance-friendly sets. Lead guitarist Pete Kartsounes says the high of playing unplugged is just as rewarding as bringing a sweaty, throbbing dance floor to rapid boil. He calls this new festival “a chance to show off his group’s singer/songwriter side.””The people that go to a show like this are in it for the music,” Kartsounes says, “they’re coming to really hear songs and go a little more deep then to just drink and boogie down. It should almost be a songwriters’ event – it’s a very good thing that I wish happened more.”For solo, acoustic, singer/songwriters the Colorado Grass Roots Music Festival is a chance to get exposure to audiences in the hundreds instead of the dozens found at coffee shop or book store venues. For acts like Paonia-based Sweet Sunny South, an old time bluegrass act who are always “unplugged,” the opportunity to play a venue usually reserved for more intense rock shows comes with some reservations.”I’ve heard (State Bridge) was a rowdy drinking place,” Sweet Sunny South guitarist Rob Miller says, “It is an interesting thing to turn a place like that into an acoustic venue.” With an eclectic lineup including many acts that usually are “plugged-in” Miller explains that acoustic shows are completely different than the electrified brand. “It’s a different frame of mind,” he says. “Many of these performers love to unplug and get into their music but don’t know how to find the right venues to do it. Acoustic fits in some venues and not in others.”Miller’s band performs 8 p.m. Saturday on the outdoor stage, a spot they requested because their music simply wouldn’t work on the indoor stage due to much background noise. Using one shared microphone and playing old style bluegrass works best in a “listening room” situation where audiences are there for the music not simply to party he says. Without the use of loud amps Miller’s bluegrass band has attracted audiences from eight – 90 years old who he says feel more included in the show and are able to experience the essence of the music without being blasted away.”It’s really not about how loud you are,” Miller says, “but how much attention you have from the audience. When the sounds are soft and sweet people pay more attention and get drawn in to the experience a lot more.”Besides a chance to express their acoustic side and collect some new fans along the way, both Possum Logic and Sweet Sunny South see the first-ever acoustic festival as a chance to win one of the four spots to play next summer at Red Rocks Amphitheater.”That’s definitely the bait on the hook,” Possum Logic’s Kartsounes says. “Who wouldn’t want to play Red Rocks next summer, I’m going to bite.” The Red Rocks bait worked for most of the bands according to promoters who easily filled the 21 spots available within a couple of weeks of announcing the event. The competition and acoustic tunes of the Colorado Grass Roots Music Festival not only brings a unique acoustical festival to the Vail-area but also benefits a worthy cause – the Children’s Foundation.The Colorado-based organization’s mission is to provide homes and care for homeless, abandoned, orphaned, desperate and abused children by providing shelter, food, clothing, medical, education and other necessities through God’s unconditional love. Check out http://www.childrensfoundationinc.com for more info on the charity festival-goers will be supporting.Tickets for the Colorado Grass Roots Music Festival can be purchased online at http://www.coloradograssroots.org for one-day tickets or the full event pass. Day passes are $15 and weekend passes are $35. Free camping, cabin and tent rentals are also available. VTNew festival at a new and improved venueRecent renovations have improved the musical experience at State Bridge Lodge. The Old Crystal Theater stage on the top floor of State Bridge is now open with a new bar, reinforced floors and a spankin’ new lighting and sound system. The main outdoor stage features new lighting and a new location that allows better views from the entire patio. More yurts and improved cabins accommodate more overnight guests. There’s plenty of FREE camping nearby and, as always, plenty of porta-potties to make room for more beer.Colorado Grass Roots Festival 2004Bodha Celtic Music (Celtic – Boulder)Sweet Sunny South (Old Time Bluegrass – Paonia)Virginia Barrett (Solo Performer – Steamboat Springs)Chris Harrison (Folk – Baslalt)His Beloved (Gospel Bluegrass – Aurora)The Meek (Alternative Folk – Vail)Sofa King (Rock – Aurora)Jack Courtney (Solo Performer – Fort Collins)Sentimental Hitmen (Soul, Rock, Jazz – Boulder)Steven Paul Clisset (Solo Performer – Erie)Bluegrace Mountain Band (Gospel Bluegrass – Eagle)Randy Pfeuffer Trio (Rock – Fort Collins)The Dog Mountain Band (Folk Rock/Bluegrass – Loveland)Ben Long (Song Writer/Performer – Englewood)Lazy String Gang (Bluegrass – Denver)Robert Wally Furlow (Solo Performer – Avon)Bubba Dixon Trio (Rock – Eagle)Tim Creedon (Song Writer/Performer – Littleton)Brendan Mc Kinney (Solo Performer – Eagle)Possum Logic (Bluegrass/Folk/Blues – Boulder)The Clam Daddys (Swing – Denver)


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