The Festy Awards: Best of 2020 in (Streaming) Music and (Virtual) Festivals
BEST FESTIVAL THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED:
Winter WonderGrass – Steamboat
This has been such a crazy, long year that it’s pretty easy to forget that it didn’t start that way.
Back in the early Winter months of 2020, we were all doing what we always do, and in Colorado, that means dancing our asses off in the cold and snow at Winter WonderGrass in Steamboat Springs!
Greensky Bluegrass, Billy Strings, Margo Price, The Travelin’ McCourys, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and many more kept people warm and dancing, and anyone lucky enough to attend the late-February party went into the quarantine with a nice warm fuzzy feeling.
After a long summer of partial concerts, virtual gatherings, and drive-ins, all of which were great considering the circumstances, we were nonetheless ecstatic to learn of a real festival – in Colorado – with Leftover Salmon!
Salmon threw a Fall MASKerade on the lawn of the Surf Hotel in Buena Vista. Three days of socially distanced music and revelry fell on a cold and snowy weekend, but the weather wasn’t going to keep down the spirits of the several hundred in attendance who, for one weekend at least, got to experience some sort of “normalcy” in the form of Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass music by the best in the business!
BEST LIVE STREAMING VENUE:
Andy Thorn’s TINY DECK
Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon had his Tiny Deck built for his wedding, but he has since used it as one of the most beautiful settings for a concert we have ever seen.
While Andy could often be seen pickin’ at sunrise with a fox, filling bongs with snow, or skiing with his wife, it was the Tiny Deck Concerts that really delighted the fans.
The view from the deck in the mountains looks across the Front Range and down on Boulder and beyond. Online viewers were ecstatic to see an artist performing from somewhere other than their basement or kitchen table. The Colorado weather sometimes presented challenges, but more often than not, afternoon showers led to sunset rainbows.
Thorn paid close attention to the important details, and the sound quality and video production were both on point.
And then, of course, were the lineups.
Tyler Grant, The Sweet Lillies, Banshee Tree, and Daniel Rodriguez all sounded fantastic on the deck.
Thorn also called upon his talented group of friends in the region and put together some of the best collaborations we have seen.
The Band of Andys featured Andy Hall, Andy Frasco, Vince “Andy” Herman and Jeremy “Andy” Salken. The Almost Broke Mountain Jam had Anders Beck, Robin Davis and Jimi Giles join Andy. Jeremy Garrett and Adam Aijala made an incredible trio with Thorn. And the list went on all summer long!
While these were online-only events (with the exception of a few socially-distanced neighbors), hopes are that the Tiny Deck will one day host live audiences!
Worst Music Festival Story from 2019 that doesn’t sound so bad now: STD Breakout at Coachella
Now, in a year no one could have predicted, it’s just kind of sad.
I guess the good news is that Coachella was canceled, and didn’t have the chance to do more damage than a herpes outbreak.
🚙 BEST DRIVE-IN CONCERT:
Greensky Bluegrass – Blue Ridge Falls, NC – Halloween Weekend
Add Drive-In-Concert to the list of 2020 creations.
When COVID reared its ugly head and shutdown the majority of concerts and festivals, the community did what it does best and got creative.
Thus, the Drive-in Concert was born!
Fans gathered in fields around their cars, appropriately spaced, of course, and got to do something they had missed all year – dance to LIVE music!
Many artists and organizations deserve a TON of credit for making these special events a reality. We give the BEST DRIVE-IN CONCERT AWARD to Greensky Bluegrass for their creativity and unique ways of connecting with their fans, along with their ability to adjust on-the-fly and continue to deliver!
Greensky Bluegrass wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stop them from an epic Halloween throwdown!
They planned a 3-Night run at the Blue Ridge Falls drive-in. When an epic deluge shut them out of night one, they moved the production indoors to the Asheville Music Hall and played a live-streaming show for their fans around the world! Nights 2 and 3 returned to the outdoor venue as planned.
The band was also celebrating 20 years together and used the drive-in shows as a historical journey through their impressive catalog.
For never under-doing it, Greensky Bluegrass AND THEIR FANS get the Best Drive-In Concert Award!
Photos by Corie O’Malley
THE LEMONADE AWARD:
The Sweet Lillies
When life hands you lemons… you smash the shit out of them like the Queen that you are!
Nothing taught us that lesson better than the collective shitshow of 2020. And no one embraced that better than The Sweet Lillies, the recipients of the inaugural Lemonade Award.
While every artist had to deal with cancellations and rescheduling throughout this crazy year, The Sweet Lillies met each setback with a smile and a plan.
When a night at the Mishawaka Amphitheater was canceled due to a crazy forest fire (yeah, it wasn’t just COVID wreaking havoc on 2020), The Sweet Lillies threw a private mini-festival. When new distancing measures threw a wrench in some of the Halloween plans, another mini-festival was held, and fans and friends donned costumes and danced in the Colorado sunshine!
A Thanksgiving show at Denver’s Globe Hall was moved to March, and when an intimate evening at the Boulder Theater in January had to be moved to May, it became the official Album Release Party for the forthcoming new album “Common Ground”!
Way to stay on your toes, Lillies! Congrats!
BEST 2020 TOUR:
Holly Bowling – The Wilderness Sessions
“I decided if the only option right now is to play to empty spaces, then I wanted to do that in a giant canyon or on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. If people can’t be a part of the equation for the time being, let’s lean into that and take it further – get really far out there away from everyone and play there. It’s one of those things that would never have worked in normal times.”
When COVID pretty much shut down all summer tours in 2020, Holly Bowling got creative.
The lack of musical touring opportunities combined with the lack of crowds in the Nation’s parks presented Bowling with an incredible opportunity.
She hit the road and set up in some of the most beautiful and iconic locations in our country – Yosemite, CA; Badlands, SD; Moab, UT – to name a few.
The result? Hauntingly beautiful music in surreal settings and videos that will surely outlive the memory of Summer 2020!
Whew! That’s a wrap on 2020! WE MADE IT!!!
It wasn’t all bad, was it?
Sure, we missed out on a ton of concerts and festivals, but we can tell our grandkids about Drive-In Concerts, Zoom Parties and Virtual Festivals!
Thanks for reading, and THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your support.
Festy GoNuts is very much a labor of love, and when you read our articles and comment on our posts and share our content, it means more to us than you could imagine.
We’re all here for the same reason – we love LIVE music.
We are forever grateful to get to experience it with you – even when it’s mostly virtual!
Here’s to an unbelievably NORMAL 2021!
Jason and Kelly Law
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