The Festies: The Best of 2019 in Music and Festivals - Festy GoNuts!

The Festies: The Best of 2019 in Music and Festivals

by Dec 30, 2019

The Festies: The Best of 2019 in Music and Festivals

2019. What a year.

Seriously, in looking back to research this article, we were blown away by everything that went down in just one short year.  (And it wasn’t even a Leap Year!)

We discovered new venues, new festivals and new artists. We lost festivals and venues, and, tragically, several artists as well.  Most importantly, however, we gained a ton of new, wonderful and magical friends, and had more amazing experiences with you all than we can count.

In an attempt to tie a bow on 2019, we’re introducing…

The First Annual Festy Awards! 

The Festies are more like your Senior Superlatives than actual awards.  Best Looking, Most Likely to Succeed, etc.

In addition, we’ve put together a list of our Favorite Musical Moments of 2019.  We hope you were able to experience some of these with us.

We’ve also included…drumroll please…The Best Music Festivals of 2019, as ranked by YOU!   You voted on Facebook,  and we ranked your responses.  Thanks for your help!


So, without further ado, here are The 2019 Festy Awards:

Best Inaugural Festival: Boogie at the Broadmoor

While Leftover Salmon fans were initially sad to learn that we would no longer be raging at the Stanley Hotel, the frowns quickly turned upside-down once we realized we were graduating to the glamorous Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  And what a graduation party it was!

Leftover was joined by Sam Bush, The Bluegrass Generals, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Sweet Lillies, Woodshed Red, Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, and more.

Highlights included a Gong Show, Living Room Set, and Pajama Party!

Best New Venue: The Mission Ballroom, Denver CO

Mission Ballroom - Greensky Bluegrass

It’s like Red Rocks indoors.  There’s not a bad seat in the house, and the sound is fantastic.

We couldn’t be more excited to have this amazing new venue in Denver, and it is off to a blockbuster start in terms of the talent that has already played there and is booked for 2020.

We caught Greensky Bluegrass at The Mission in December, and the biggest disco ball we’ve ever seen was absolutely made for Greensky’s Lighting Director, Andrew Lincoln!

Honorable Mention: 14’ers While You Wait

14er Boulder is the best pot shop in Colorado, and they have been doing “While You Wait Sessions” all year.  These are 30-minute sets in the waiting room by some of the best artists who happen to be passing through town.  We’ve caught members of The Infamous Stringdusters, Drunken Hearts, Tenth Mountain Division, and Larry Keel Experience at these sessions.  Keep this on your radar, for sure!

Best First Time at Red Rocks: Billy Strings

Billy Strings at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

We can’t say enough about Billy Strings and how he is taking the music world by storm.  Get your ass out and see him and his amazing band. 

When Billy Strings opened for Greensky Bluegrass in September, you would never have known by the crowd that it was the opening act.  There wasn’t an empty space in the venue, and Billy, Billy, Jarrod and Royal set the place on fire.

Not bad for Billy Strings’ first time in Red Rocks.  Literally – word is he’d never even been to the venue before playing to a packed house!

Worst Music Festival Story: STD Breakout at Coachella

Coachella Herpes Outbreak

Yes, this story is actually real, as reported by Newsweek.

“Coachella-surrounding areas have seen a significant increase in the number of reported cases of herpes in the after two weekends of the music festival.”

We always thought the breakout story of Coachella would involve someone called Young Lil’ Jeezy or something like that. 

Nope.  It’s herpes.

Best 420 Homage: Andy Thorn’s “Blazing New Frontiers” Video

On April 20th this year, Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon released a video for Blazing New Frontiers, off of his new album Frontiers Like These.

The song, co-written by Andy’s wife Cecilia Thorn, chronicles her real-life experiences navigating the wild-west frontier in the early years of the Colorado marijuana industry.

The hilarious video, with cameos by Salmon’s Alwyn Robinson and Vince Herman, was filmed in the real grow ops of 14er Boulder.

We laughed our asses off.  And it had nothing to do with the timing of the release.  Honest.  Sort of.

Funky Festival Gear and Clothing

Funky Festival Gear

“Be Your Fest Self” with fun and unique festival gear.

Like Aliens riding T-Rex with rainbow stars shooting out its butt.   Because we can.

Funky Festival Gear and Clothing

Best Interview: The Jeff Austin Story

This one truly pains us to include.

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago we published this article based on our interview with Jeff Austin.  We spoke on the phone just before the New Year.  Jeff was honest, witty, and vulnerable.  We chatted for over an hour, and it was truly like talking to an old friend.  A few weeks after this published, he told us he had felt the same. 

When Jeff Austin tragically left us on June 24th, he left a hole in our hearts and in the music community.

This article has taken on new meaning since Jeff’s passing, but it still stands as one of the best conversations we have had with an artist, and we are proud that it will live on in Jeff’s memory. 

Best Sticker: This Is How We Pruett

This Is How We Pruett -sticker

We like to make stickers, and we love to support our favorite artists.

When we came up with the idea for this sticker, in honor of Lyndsay Pruett of Jon Stickley Trio, we decided to surprise her with it at Yarmony Music Festival.  Luckily for us, she liked it!

You can now get a copy of this from the merch table at Jon Stickley Trio shows – which you should attend as much as possible.


Best Non-Political Political Story: Mayor Pete and Phish

Pete Buttigieg on guitar

Mayor and 2020 Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg is a bit outside the mold of a ‘typical’ presidential candidate, as we learned from an interview he did with the LA Times this year. 

Buttigieg, according to the interview, was introduced to jambands through Dave Matthews, and then went on to discover Phish.

“…the idea that every song was different, that they would settle into the music and take it interesting places, really excited me,” Buttigieg told the LA Times.  “And when I discovered Phish, they took that to the next level.”

Rock on, Mayor Pete!

Best Book: 30 Years of Festival by Tim Newby

It’s no secret that we’re pretty big fans of Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass pioneers, Leftover Salmon.  So, we were pretty excited when Leftover Salmon: 30 Years of Festival! was released in February of 2019.

Author Tim Newby captures the entire 30+ year history of the band, using each of the members, past and current, to chronologically lay out the full story of Leftover Salmon.  It’s a must-read for fans of Salmon, as well as for music fans in general. 

Without Leftover Salmon, many of today’s artists wouldn’t be here, and this book does a great job of telling their story.

Honorable Mention – Jerry Garcia: Secret Space of Dreams by Jay Blakesberg

Renowned Grateful Dead photographer Jay Blakesberg has put together a comprehensive collection of photos of Jerry Garcia, from 1978 until Jerry’s passing in 1995.  Blakesberg has a way of capturing a moment unlike any other rock photographer, and his images of Garcia are no exception.

Best Festival Act of Kindness:

Del McCoury and Verso Families

Delfest in Cumberland, MD

When the Verso paper mill in Allegany County announced it would be shutting down, leaving 700 workers without jobs, the McCoury Family invited them and their families to spend the day at Delfest.

“It affects so many people,” Del McCoury said in an interview with the Cumberland Times-News.  “If we could offer them jobs we would, but we just can’t do that. We think it’s the least we can do.” 

Del McCoury worked in the timber and lumber industry for most of his life, prior to becoming a professional musician, and understands the hardships of losing employment.

“Maybe this will let them take it off their minds for a day,” Del said.

Thanks, Del!  

Read the Cumberland Times story here

Best Non-Music Festival: Outbound Pursuit

Sure, we love music festivals. But we were first attracted to the festival life more through the adventure and culture than the music.  That is why we have always focused on Music, Culture, and Adventure in our festival coverage.

With that in mind, we were thrilled to be invited this year to cover Outbound’s Pursuit Series in Snowbasin, UT.

Outbound bills their Pursuit Series as an “outdoor adventure camp for grown-ups.”  Think, “Summer camp for adults,”  but without the pesky camp counselors making wallets and lanyards.

We had a blast, and hope to be back in 2020!

Favorite Festy GoNuts Op-Ed:

Music Fans – We’re All In This Together

We wrote this opinion piece in response to being asked at a bar, “Are you a Phish guy?”

It made us think about the divisiveness of some of the bands we listen to and how, in reality, music brings us together more than anything.

The fun part is that, when we shared this article on Facebook, we were flooded with comments from folks stating things like “WSMFP!” and “It’s only Greensky for me!”

Oh well.  We tried.

Favorite Festy Band Crush:

Pixie and the Partygrass Boys

Pixie and the Partygrass Boys

We first caught Pixie and the Partygrass Boys at Winter Wondergrass in Steamboat last year.  It was love at first sight.

This energetic group from Utah has created the sound of Partygrass, which Katia a.k.a. Pixie describes as, “Somewhere between bluegrass-newgrass-pop-punk-&-rock-n-roll.  That’s Partygrass.  And also, Chickens ’n Whiskey…”

We’ll admit that the Chickens and Whiskey are certainly part of the appeal for us!

We managed to catch Pixie and the Partygrass boys at a bunch of festivals this year, and they impressed the hell out of us every time.

We even got to interview them at Rhythms on the Rio.  Check out the Pixie and the Partygrass interview to learn more about Partygrass, chickens, whiskey, Tchaikovsky, Shenartigans and more!

Favorite Festival Collaboration:

Larry Keel Experience with Kyle Tuttle, Jeremy Garrett and Billy Nershi

The Larry Keel Experience played a few shows this summer with Kyle Tuttle on banjo.  This instantly was our new favorite band.

At Rhythms on the Rio, Larry and Jenny Keel, Jared Pool and Kyle Tuttle were joined by Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident) and Jeremy Garrett (Infamous Stringdusters) for an amazingly fun version of “Groundhog.”

Check out our YouTube page for even more videos!

Best Small Festival: Sleepy Creek SpringDig

Sleepy Creek Springdig 2019

Read all about the 2019 SpringDig Festival!

We’re a little hesitant to tell you about this one, because we kind of like it being a bit of a secret, but…

On the banks of the Potomac lies the Sleepy Creek Campground, home of Sleepy Creek SpringDig. It is here that Festy GoNuts and our trusty companion, Cornelius the Unicorn, first met in 2016, so it has a special place in our hearts.  

This year’s SpringDig had Rumpke Mountain Boys, Drew Emmitt and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Jon Stickley Trio and Jeff Austin Band.  Sadly, this was also the last Jeff Austin performance we would see.  He left us with a good one, however, and the Sleepy Creek All Stars, featuring Jeff and his band, Jon Stickley, Lyndsay Pruett, Drew Emmitt and Andy Thorn, will go down as one of the best.

Best Festival Chef:

Bradford McDevitt – Super Heady Tacos

Music festivals and food go hand-in-hand, and there’s nothing better in your hand than a taco.

Bradford McDevitt of McDevitt Taco Supply and Super Heady Tacos has been feeding hungry music fans for years, so it was only fitting that Brad was chosen to be a Chef at Sea on 2019’s JamCruise.  McDevitt and his crew put out 2500 tacos for the JamCruise Taco Night.

You can try McDevitt’s tacos for yourself at McDevitt Taco Supply in Boulder, CO, or from Super Heady Tacos, slinging into the wee hours at music festivals around the country.

Best Late-night Show:

Jeff Austin Band – Schmiggity’s Steamboat Springs

When the highly anticipated Winter Wondergrass “Grass After Dark” schedule came out, there was no question where we were going to be on one of the nights – Jeff Austin Band at Schmiggity’s.

The band had played an amazing set on the main-stage earlier in the day, and were rearing to go when they hit the stage in the packed room of Schmiggity’s in Steamboat. 

It was one of the best sets of music we have ever seen, made even more special by its rareness.  At the time, we thought we were seeing a band on the rise, primed to give us years of high-energy parties.  Sadly, this will be remembered as one of the few times we got to witness the greatness that was the Jeff Austin Band.

Best First Fest for Festy GoNuts:

Campout for the Cause

We had heard of the amazingness of Campout for the Cause, but finally got to experience it for ourselves in 2019.

The rumors were not misleading.  This is one amazing festival.

This unique festival encourages attendees to connect throughout the weekend. Besides a stellar music lineup, there are a variety of activities, including yoga, rafting, educational workshops, and SUP courses.

Read our review and find out for yourself at the next Campout for the Cause!

2019 Festies: Favorite Music Moments of 2019

We’ve been lucky to have seen a ton of live music in 2019. 

It’s not easy to narrow it down, but here are some of the musical moments that have stayed with us through the year.  Let us know in the comments if you were with us at any of these!

John Prine - Red Rocks 2019

John Prine at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Seeing this legend at this legendary venue was, well, legendary.

Violent Femmes at Rocky Mountain Folk Festival

As life-long fans of the Femmes, we couldn’t have been more excited to catch them in our backyard at Folks Festival.

The White Buffalo at The Fox Theater, Boulder

An amazing performance at an amazing venue.  Do yourself a favor and check out this band.

Infamous Stringdusters’ “Suprise” Show – Fox Theater, Boulder

The Stringdusters announced a surprise performance at Boulder’s Fox Theater, just after their Red Rocks performance.  It was amazing to catch these guys in a smaller venue after getting “Dusted” at Red Rocks!

Sockeye Late Night – Strings & Sol

Sockeye is the hardest working rhythm section in Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass -bassist Greg Garrison and drummer Alwyn Robinson, along with keyboard wizard Erik Deutsch.  These Leftover Salmon members always crush it, but when they closed Strings & Sol with a late-night palapa set and were joined at times by Andy Falco (Infamous Stringdusters), Mike Robinson (Railroad Earth) and Jacob Joliff (formerly Yonder Mountain String Band), the palapa nearly burned to the ground!

The Sweet Lillies and Friends – Pickin’ on Hip Hop

Don’t let the name fool you – there was nothing ‘sweet’ about these ladies when they were joined by Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident) and friends for an epic night of old-school Hip-Hop at Cervantes’ Other Side.  It was Bad.  Not ‘Bad‘ meaning ‘bad‘, but ‘Bad‘ meaning ‘Good.’

The High Hawks

The High Hawks is a new project from Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Adam Greuel (Horseshoes and Hand Grenades), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans), Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra), and Will Trask (Great American Taxi). 

We got to see The High Hawks at their inaugural performance at – where else? – The Fox Theater in Boulder. Catch them next time they soar by!

Del McCoury at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The Del McCoury Band opened Red Rocks for the String Cheese Incident this summer, which sounds absurd when I type it out.  Del McCoury opened for someone?  Whoa. 

Either way, it was amazing.

Del McCoury Band - Red Rocks 2019

Jeff Austin Band with Lyndsay Pruett – Death Trip

We’ve already let the cat out of the bag about how amazing Sleepy Creek SpringDig is.  It also produced one of our favorite musical moments of the year, when Lyndsay Pruett (Jon Stickley Trio) joined Jeff Austin Band for Death Trip.

People’s Choice Festy:  Best Music Festival

And now the big award.  The moment you’ve all been waiting for. 

The People’s Choice Festy Award for Best Music Festival of 2019!

We posed the question to our Facebook followers and got a ton of passionate response.

The envelope, please.

The 2019 Festy for Best Music Festival goes to…

Strings & Sol 2019 - Best Music Festival

Strings & Sol!

It’s hard to compete with this one.  An incredible lineup of music at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  1300 or so of the most incredible people dancing in the surf and sand.

Yeah, this is a winner.

Read the fan-choice Best Moments of Strings and Sol

Which brings us to the second-place winner, which is really just another winner, since Strings & Sol is in an unbeatable category itself.


The Stateside People’s Choice Festy for Best Music Festival goes to…

Yarmony Music Festival 2019


A floating stage, no overlapping music, a main stage just a stone’s throw from the campground, and the majesty of the Colorado River.  This festival has always had a special place in our hearts – and we’re glad you guys agreed!

Congrats, Yarmony!


3rd Place in Best Music Festival 

With a 4-way tie, the winners are:

Pickin’ on Picknic, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, John Hartford Memorial Fest, and Delfest


Honorable Mentions in Best Music Festival

Several music festivals had multiple votes, and we think they are all worth a mention!

Camp Greensky, 4848, Northwest String Summit, Boats & Bluegrass, Blue Ox, RIDE Festival


Congrats to all the winners, and thank you to everyone that played along!

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!

Here’s to an incredible 2020!


Festy GoNuts

Jason and Kelly Law

About The Author


Festy GoNuts is the ultimate resource for enhancing your music festival experience: the Music, the Culture & the Adventure.

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