UllrGrass 2019 Review: Ullr is Cooler!
UllrGrass 2019 Review: Ullr is Cooler
The 5th Annual UllrGrass Music and Beer Festival was held in Golden, Colorado this past weekend (January 25 – 27, 2019). Creators Susannah and Chris Thompson set out to make this year’s music festival bigger and better than ever, and they succeeded on all fronts. The lineup, venue, crowds, beer vendors and overall feel of this annual festival seemed to be taken up another notch this year, and Festy GoNuts was pleased to be a part of it for our third year in a row.
Ullr is Cooler
Just when the dust from the holidays begins to settle, and you start to think you’re finally getting caught up on rest – UllrGrass Music and Beer Festival is upon you! There’s not a lot of down-time in Colorado, and this festival is certainly a good excuse to keep on partying. It’s become an annual tradition for Festy GoNuts, and we were certainly looking forward to this year more than ever.
This was year five for UllrGrass, and it was gearing up to be the biggest and best year yet for this Colorado Winter Festival. The lineup showcased some big hitting names in the bluegrass scene, and the late-night music would be the first shows debuted at the newly remodeled Buffalo Rose in downtown Golden. The weather forecast was cool with expected sunshine, and it seemed like the residents of Golden were all very excited for their local festivities to begin.
Friday Night Ullrgrass Kick-Off at the Buffalo Rose
As we drove through downtown Golden on Friday night, we were first struck by the thousands of twinkling Christmas lights still adorning the tree-lined road. We’re not sure if they keep them up just for the special influx of visitors coming to town for the music festival, but it certainly added a festive touch to the cool, dark evenings of the weekend.
We were anxious to be one of the first patrons to experience the Buffalo Rose on their Grand Opening night. The owners have been remodeling the bar and restaurant of this iconic establishment for months, and the results were simply astounding.
The entire venue has been given a complete makeover, from floor to ceiling. Every attendee was buzzing about the gorgeous bars (each floor has its own bar with a uniquely different feel and style), the comfy booths lining the walls, and the state-of-the-art sound system bookending the stage.
Liver by the River was playing when we first walked in, and they had the crowd on their feet. This Durango-based band continually blows me away with their fast energy and remarkable talent, and they brought the fire for the Rose’s first Main Stage act.
The UllrGrass collaborations are what sets this music festival apart, and this year was certainly no exception. The UllrGrass AllStars took to the Buffalo Rose stage as Drew Emmitt, Andy Thorn and Greg Garrison from Leftover Salmon, Adam Aijala from Yonder Mountain String Band, and Coleman Smith from Rapidgrass – and together they brought down the house.
The New Orleans Suspects closed out the main stage on Friday Night, and Tori Pater stepped out on stage to belt out a tune or two. If this first night was any indication of the weekend to come, we knew we had better try to go home and rest up before Saturday’s festivities.
Saturday: Ullr Brings Sunshine and Beer to Golden
While I am constantly amazed at the energy we can conjure up during a three-day music festival, we decided it best to make a late-appearance to the festival grounds on Saturday so we didn’t burn out before the NightGrass sets. Of course, we immediately regretted it after hearing that Turkeyfoot and Bowregard played some incredible sets of music to the morning audience. This is why I have such terrible FOMO.
We conveniently parked in the garage – for free! – and walked just a couple of blocks to Parfet Park. As we neared, we could hear that Drew Emmitt had joined Mighty Pines on the main stage, and we picked up our pace. We checked in at the main gate and were handed our souvenir glasses for the Beer Festival. We love collecting these UllrGrass souvenirs, and this year’s glass is certainly our favorite so far!
The Mighty Pines may come from St Louis, but they seem to have grown pretty comfortable in the Colorado music scene. They combine rock ’n roll with some serious soul, and they had us dancing our way into Day 2 of UllrGrass.
Make Time for Beer
We took a break to start tasting some beers, since the Beer Festival only runs from 1:00 – 4:00. It’s actually the perfect amount of time to taste dozens of beers and still avoid the dreaded blackout zone. This year, the UllrGrass Beer Festival was bigger than ever. 34 tents dotted the park, all housing different breweries and cideries from around the country. I gravitated towards the sours and hit up a few Belgian dubbels and tripels in between. Whatever your beer preference, there were plenty of high-quality tastes for everyone in attendance.
Saturday gets an added element of flair because of the annual Costume Contest. Attendees don their best Viking costumes, and fur and horns can be seen all throughout the park. After five years, it seemed like the majority of the festival-goers finally fully embraced this Nordic fashion style, and everyone brought their A-Game. Skøl!
Back to the Bands
We returned to the stage for Coral Creek and guests. The host band has always brought together some of the biggest Colorado talents to this little park in Golden. It’s always a treat when horns are incorporated into a bluegrass festival, so it was treat when Gabe Mervine (trumpet) and Nathan Peoples (sax) played us some funky tunes.
This year, Tim Carbone and Drew Emmitt seemed to sit in with everyone – and it really elevated the energy on every stage. But I swear the entire stage might have lifted straight off the ground when Tim Carbone put down his fiddle and belted out Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with Sheryl Renee. So glad we captured some of that incredible festival energy!
Saturday with Sam
As the beer festival wrapped up and the sun began to set behind the foothills, the crowd all funneled towards the main stage for the most anticipated act of the weekend. It seemed hard to believe, but the Sam Bush Band was going to grace this stage in the little town of Golden.
And grace it they did. As Sam Bush announced to the crowd “Be Cooler with Ullr” (that’s close, Sam), UllrGrass did get a little cooler! The Sam Bush Band brings a feeling of nostalgia to the bluegrass music scene. The realization that you are in the presence of true legend takes the experience to a different level. Every time you see Sam Bush play, you know this moment could go down in history. Same ol’ Sam, same ol’ songs, same ol’ feeling. And I’ll take that feeling all day long.
The sky glowed bright with hues of pinks and blues as the Sam Bush Band closed out the second day of UllrGrass in the park, but there was still plenty of fun to be had at the NightGrass sets in downtown Golden.
Head Downtown for NightGrass
One of the best parts about UllrGrass is that the creators of this music festival understand the attendees do not want to be outside once the sun sets in Colorado. So, they give us plenty of options to stay warm while we continue to listen to incredible musicians.
We opted to take a break to warm up, grab a bite and rest our legs for a couple of hours, and then we headed over to the Buffalo Rose for some more musical collaborations. FREIYA: Women of Bluegrass (featuring Bonnie Sims (Bonnie & the Clydes), Jaquita Straw (Jackie and the Racket), Erin Peet Lukes (Thunder and Rain), K.C. Groves, and Natalie Padilla (Masontown)) kicked things off on the main stage, and warmed up the crowd with their spectacular tunes.
Not to be outdone, Coral Creek seemed to have a revolving door of musicians join them on stage as they hosted the Grateful Jamboree. A classic sing-a-long of Grateful Dead tunes seemed to be just what the audience needed to keep them rocking late into Saturday night. The Way Down Wanderers wrapped up Saturday’s stage at the Buffalo Rose, but those looking for more headed on over to the Old Capital Grill for a late-night pick. Hosted by the Gypsy Cattle Drive, the jam included members of Rapidgrass, Leftover Salmon, Sam Bush Band, Coral Creek and the New Orleans Suspects. If you didn’t stay up late enough to catch it, here’s a little peek into what you missed (Video courtesy Jessica Granish).
Again – the FOMO is real.
Sunday Bloody’s and Bluegrass
After a quick slumber, we went out for a delicious brunch with friends. Being that this festival is held in downtown Golden, many out-of-towners decided to book AirBnB’s or crash with friends to truly make it a weekend experience. Golden has plenty of restaurants and bars in town, and it’s easy to navigate by foot. The weekend was packed with activities, but we also found plenty of time to enjoy all that Golden has to offer.
The festival got started early, and attendees could enjoy $1 Bloody Marys from10:30 – 11:00 am while listening to the Buffalo Commons. Thunder and Rain took the main stage first, and coincidentally the winds picked up. Pop-up tents took to the air as the cool breezes flowed through the park, but the show must go on!
The chaos calmed, and the sun popped out as the afternoon approached. Telluride Bluegrass band competition winners, Sugar & The Mint sweetened the stage with their harmonies, before Adam Kinghorn (Head for the Hills) hosted a final UllrGrass collaboration, featuring Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon), Stephen Mougin (Sam Bush Band), Benny “Burle” Galloway, Jordan Ramsey (Ragged Union), Erik Yates (Hot Buttered Rum), and James Thomas.
The Norse god of Ullr must have been pleased by that incredible set of music because the sun broke through the clouds for the rest of Sunday afternoon. And we were certainly pleased by the weekend’s final act – Mama Magnolia. This powerful band impressed us at YarmonyGrass this past summer, so we knew we weren’t going to miss a second of their UllrGrass set.
Luckily, many others stuck around to discover this powerhouse from Denver. Tim Carbone jumped on stage one final time as Mama Magnolia gave us another opportunity to boogie as the sun set on UllrGrass 2019.
There’s just something different about a music festival in the winter.
It takes extra creativity and energy from the music festival creators, and it means a bit more dedication from the festival attendees. But when you combine superb musicians, a high-quality beer festival, and lots of fur and horns, you get one hell of a festival. And that’s UllrGrass.
The Norse gods have been appeased.
The snow will continue to fall in Colorado this winter.
And we will start counting down the days until UllrGrass 2020!
Read about UllrGrass 2018!
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