Rhythms on the Rio 2017 Review

by Aug 17, 2017Music, Reviews

The 12th Annual Rhythms on the Rio Festival took place on the banks of the Rio Grande river in beautiful South Fork, Colorado.  It was our first chance to experience this wonderful non-profit music festival, and we were antsy to see what all the hype was about!  (Read our Rhythms on the Rio Preview to learn more about the South Fork Music Association and the purpose of this festival)

With its amazing location on the Rio Grande and attendees coming from all over the country, Rhythms on the Rio is a perfect candidate for the Festy GoNuts breakdown: 

The Music, The Culture, and The Adventure.

Rhythms on the Rio: The Music

Right out of the gate this festival was overloaded with amazing musicians.  The festivities kicked off on Friday with Charley Wheeler, and the music didn’t let up until Shinyribs brought the house down on Sunday evening.  We were blown away with the caliber of music that took the stage, act after act of pure talent. 

We can’t say enough about the artists performing at Rhythms on the Rio – there was not a dull moment or a ‘downtime’ set amongst the acts. 

Luckily, the stage could be heard throughout the campground, so it was possible to grab a bite and regroup without completely missing an act!

Friday’s lineup came in hot, and when Elder Grown took the stage, we were ready to dance.  Lucky us, we picked the right band for that!  Out of Durango, Colorado, Elder Grown’s core is made of 3 brothers from a strong musical background, and they’ve rounded out the group with two others who bring just as much musical prowess to the party. 

All members of the band are multi-instrumental, and switching on stage is common.  Blending funk, strings, hip-hop and rock, the dance party doesn’t end with this talented bunch, who clearly have as much fun on stage as the crowd does getting down along with them!

Head for the Hills threw down the way only they can, and the first evening was rounded out with Elegant Survival.  This conglomerate of members from Elephant Revival and The Deer put on a beautiful show, and the festival was in full swing as we took the party to the campground.

Saturday was a lineup for the ages!  

After Dave Manning got our morning going, The Deer took to the stage.

The Deer’s website describes them as “transcendental Texas folk and stargaze surf-western”.   We describe them as a “not-to-be-missed-amazingly-beautiful-songwriting-and-performance”.  Words just don’t do justice to this talented group from Austin, TX.  You need to see for yourself.  Luckily, this band is going places, so your opportunities to do so should be more plentiful!

>>Check out The Deer’s upcoming tour schedule. <<

Following The Deer came our latest Festy Crush, Liver Down the River.  Also hailing from Durango, this group wins the enthusiasm award for the festival.  The energy on stage that drives their self-described “psych-a-funk-a-grass-a-delic” sound doesn’t dissipate when the curtain closes.  This group could be found dancing with the crowd throughout the festival and picking in the campground all weekend long. 

 Catch a Liver Down the River show and you’ll be ready to throw on your life vest and jump on the boat with this fun and talented young crew!

After amazing performances by The Brothers Comatose, Trout Steak Revival and Eufórquestra, we were treated to the highlight of the festival, the Larry Keel Experience.


While any Larry and Jenny Keel show is epic in its own right, this one took it to entirely new levels.  Featuring the extremely talented members of Infamous Stringdusters, Andy Hall on Dobro and Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, and the one and only Alwyn Robinson (Leftover Salmon) on drums, this super group more than lived up to the hype. 


The musical interplay between all of the members made it tough to imagine this wasn’t a group that had been playing together for years instead of one that had just rehearsed that afternoon! 


The mind-blowing fun reached new heights when Jon Stickley and Lyndsay Pruett (Jon Stickley Trio) joined the group for a few jams. 

To the delight of the audience, the band even “Let Alwyn Sing”  – not once, but twice! 


By popular demand – get your own “Let Alwyn Sing” shirt here!

Saturday left us jaw-dropped and smiling, and the campground picking kept some dancing into the wee hours!

On Sunday, we were treated to wonderful sets by Gleewood and Robin Davis Duo before Jon Stickley Trio took the stage.

As the Jon Stickley Trio struck their first notes of the set, the sitting audience took to their feet and crowded the dance floor.  Jon Stickley Trio has a sound that can’t easily be described, but the talent of this power-trio from Asheville, NC is hard to match.  Featuring hip-hop style drums, a fiddle that jumps from hauntingly beautiful to dirty and funky, and a guitar that will make your head spin – a Stickley Trio show is nothing but a good time

The talent continued with a Tyler Childers set that created more than a few new fans.  The festival closed out with Shinyribs.  We don’t want to tell you too much about Shinyribs, because it is an experience you need to have for yourself!  All we can say is, what a way to close a festival!  Not a person was left without a huge shit-eating grin on his or her face as the party wound to a close. 

Rhythms on the Rio: The Culture

The culture surrounding Rhythms on the Rio is one of family, friendship, and philanthropy.  As we described in our preview, this is a non-profit festival, and the vibes extend throughout every aspect of the event.  This is very much a family and volunteer run event, and every person involved is incredibly welcoming, caring and sharing! 

Because of the southwestern Colorado location of this festival, attendees come from many different spots near and far.  Colorado was certainly represented with Durango bringing a strong contingent. However, there were many people hailing from Utah and New Mexico as well. 

In 12 years, Rhythms on the Rio has built a reputation, and folks are willing to travel to be a part of it.

We arrived on Thursday evening to see many of these dedicated festival goers lined up, ready to get the best camping spots when the gates opened in the morning.  Most of these folks have returned year after year to Rhythms, and know just how special this event is. 

We quickly became acquainted with the veteran festivarians, and started the trend of making new friends that would continue throughout the weekend!


Rhythms on the Rio Music Festival

Attending new (to us!) music festivals is a treat made even more special by these new friends we inevitably make.  Rhythms on the Rio could not have exemplified this more.  Large groups of friends and family attend this event year after year, and their groups only grow and merge as the festival brings in more and more returning attendees every year.

We didn’t just leave Rhythms on the Rio with new friends, we left with new crews

The family vibe to this event is evident everywhere.  From the adorable grand-children of the Orr family dancing on stage to the children playing in the TeePees and hustling adults with their magic tricks, this was definitely a festival for the whole family!

And when we say the whole family – we mean it!  Being one of the last dog-friendly festivals around, Rhythms on the Rio was a playground for furry friends!  (But don’t worry – responsible pet ownership abounded – no poop piles stepped in anywhere!)

Rhythms on the Rio: The Adventure

How could a festival located right on the banks of the famed Rio Grande river not abound with adventure?! 

While many attendees chose to turn their visit to South Fork into an extended adventure (see our Colorado Music Adventure suggestions!), there was plenty of adventure to be had once we arrived as well.

As Larry Keel would be sure to tell you, there are plenty of fishing opportunities available in the area.  In fact, some of the best spots are literally a stone’s throw from the campground on the Rio Grande. 

Yes, it was even possible to fish in the Rio while still catching a bit of the music from the stage! 

Many people brought rafts and boats with them and spent the mornings on extended rafting and floating trips.  Just a little planning and the help of one of the local shuttle services could get you floating the Rio all morning and ending at your campground just in time for the afternoon music!  Beat that!

For the more casual river floater, this section of the Rio Grande is hard to beat.  When the sun flooded over us on Sunday morning, dozens and dozens of festivarians could be seen walking to the beach area near the stage with all sorts of floatation devices.  You could relax in the shallow water of the beach while listening to the music, or push out into the current for an exhilarating float to the far end of the campground!  A short 5-minute walk gets you back to the beach to do it all again! 

What a way to festy!

To say Rhythms on the Rio Festival has it all is an understatement – it has much more! 

The music of this festival was at times hard to believe based on the size of this intimate gathering.  The culture was so warm and welcoming we didn’t want to leave!  The adventure – centered on the amazing Rio Grande river – is some of the best you will find anywhere, let alone at a music festival!

Without a doubt in the world, we will be returning to Rhythms on the Rio Music Festival in 2018! 

See you there!