The 10 Wonders of the 10th WinterWonderGrass Colorado Music Festival in 2023
The 10th WinterWonderGrass Colorado music festival took place March 3 – 5, 2023 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, featuring headliners Greensky Bluegrass, Infamous Stringdusters and Leftover Salmon.
The Ten Wonders of the 10th WinterWonderGrass Music Festival in Colorado
Festy GoNuts loves to highlight festivals that take in our favorite three festival elements – The Music, The Culture and The Adventure. And all of the WonderGrass festivals, along with the other festival productions from Scotty Stoughton and Bonfire Entertainment, seem to embrace these three elements completely.
10 years ago, the first WinterWonderGrass festival took place in a parking lot in Edwards, CO. It moved to Steamboat Springs in 2017, where it has seemed to have found its forever home.
Their mission – to “create simple and authentic community gatherings for the adventurous spirit” – is certainly in line with our three festival elements – and we couldn’t be more excited to have been able to participate in this festival’s 10th year here in our home state of Colorado.
So, it only made sense to us to break down the landmark year with our favorite 10 Wonders of the 10th WinterWonderGrass Music Festival in Colorado.
#10. Discovering New Music
We always love getting introduced to new-to-us bands at WinterWonderGrass. It’s because of this festival that we know of some of our favorite bands, like Pixie and the Partygrass Boys.
Our festival weekend started with a main stage set by The Lone Bellow that made us stop in our tracks. AJ Lee & Blue Summit created some serious festival chatter with their tent stages. And Paul Cauthen’s Main Stage set might have been the surprise set of the weekend.
It’s also great to see that some of the bands you may have discovered at a past WinterWonderGrass festival are showing up again, perhaps on a bigger stage.
We first saw the Kitchen Dwellers at the festival in 2017 – and we were so excited to see them play the Main Stage and the Grand Ballroom this year. We also loved seeing the return of The Lil Smokies this year, and they had another awesome Grass-After-Dark show with Tenth Mountain Division as they did in 2019.
One thing is certain – you can always be sure to find a new band heart throb at any WonderGrass festival.
#9 Tent Band Crushes
As much as we love the Main Stage at WinterWonderGrass, we think the real festival vibe is in the 3 side-stage tents.
This year, the tent stages were so overwhelmingly impressive that you didn’t want to miss any of them! Luckily, the festival producers are smart enough to give every band at least two sets so you can catch them all!
AJ Lee & Blue Summit created quite the buzz this year with their four tent sets. Pixie and the Partygrass Boys and Tenth Mountain Division packed their tent sets early with rowdy crowds. We think it’s about time that these bands all got Main Stage sets.
Pick & Howl, Old Town Pickers, and Daniel Rodriguez also brought the heat on Friday, along with Saints and Liars (who also had a Sunday tent set and opened for Leftover Salmon’s Grass-After-Dark set.)
Our Saturday began in the Pickin Perch tent with the sweet sounds of Lindsay Lou & Kyle Tuttle bringing some incredible energy to the crowds. Their sound was rounded out with Emma Rose (bass, Big Richard) and John Mailander (fiddle). All four of these musicians were seen popping on and off multiple stages all weekend long, which is exactly what makes WinterWonderGrass such an amazing music festival.
Sicard Hollow (who just wrapped up a trio tour with Pixie and the Partygrass Boys and Sweet Lillies), Tray Wellington Band, and Mama Magnolia had the energetic crowds coming back for more with their multiple tent sents.
And we can’t forget to mention the many star-studded WonderGrass collaborations that we have come to expect and adore, Pickin’ on the Dead (hosted by Tyler Grant), WinterWonderWomen (hosted by Bridgett Law and Lindsay Lou), and the newer addition of RiverWonderGrass.
If you had any energy left after the Main Stage’s last set, you were rewarded with one last set in the Soapbox Tent. Buffalo Commons, a local favorite, once again stole our hearts with their straight-fire set on Friday night. The WWG SuperJam closed out Saturday and the festival wrapped up on Sunday with crowd-favorites Pickin’ on the Dead.
#8 Free Sets of Music for Everyone
WinterWonderGrass kicks off in Steamboat Springs with free music on Thursday at the Gondola Stage. We loved wrapping up a killer day riding the mountain with a show from Trout Steak Revival, and it was the perfect place to run into lots of our friends getting ready for a weekend of festivating.
On Saturday, we headed up the gondola to the Thunderhead Lodge for a beautiful sunny day set from the up-and-coming band, The Fretliners. Consisting of Tom Knowlton (guitar / Wood Belly), Taylor Shuck (bass / Wood Belly), Dan Andree (fiddle/ Chain Station, Henhouse Prowlers), and Sam Parks (mandoline / Lonesome Days, Head for the Hills), this star-studded band is quickly becoming one of our new favorites, and has the energy of a band that we expect to be seen on many festival rosters in the near future!
#7 Big Richard Popping Up All Over the Mountain
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve been hearing a lot about this all-female string band. Even though Big Richard has only been a band for less than 2 years, their BDE landed them multiple sets throughout Steamboat Springs for the 10th Year of WinterWonderGrass.
We were stoked to have them serenade us during our classy Mountain Top Ranch-to-Table Dinner on Thursday evening – a delicious dining experience made even more delectable by the beautiful harmonies of Big Richard.
The ladies were seen popping on and off stages throughout the weekend, but they all came back together for their Saturday Grass-After-Dark set (which was moved to a tent since the high winds shut down the Gondola).
Finally, the band kicked off the Main Stage on Sunday with their final set for the weekend at Steamboat Springs. Hopefully, you managed to catch at least one of their high-energy moments during the festival weekend.
#6 Paul Cauthen’s Swagger
If you’re familiar with Paul Cauthen at all, then you were probably very much anticipating his band’s Main Stage set on Saturday. We’ve been listening to him for years and are just enthralled by the voice, the lyrics, and the energy he brings to each of his albums.
But what we hadn’t fully experienced from listening to his recordings was the Paul Cauthen Swagger.
And not just his – but the whole band.
Kicking off his set with a 15-minute rendition of Cocaine Country Dancing was just the tip of the iceberg of his wild set which had the crowd dancing and singing along. Champagne & a Limo – this is how we roll – had the whole crowd swaggering along with the band.
Cauthen’s baritone voice, which has earned him the nickname Big Velvet, silenced the crowd during his solo serenade of Country Coming Down.
#5 The Ladies Stealing the Show
The team behind booking all of the WinterWonderGrass festivals has always made a point to highlight the amazing women in bluegrass and Americana music – and this year was certainly no exception.
The WinterWonderWomen sets, hosted by Bridget Law and Lindsay Lou, brought together some of the most incredible women musicians in the industry: Megan Letts (Mama Magnolia), Michelle Pietrafitt (Banshee Tree), Emma Rose (Big Richard Band), and Avril Smith (Della Mae) plus special guests Amanda Grapes (Pixie and the Partygrass Boys), Kimber Ludiker (Della Mae), Nina Waters, and Carrie McCune.
One of the biggest buzzwords of the weekend was AJ Lee, who had 4 side-stage sets with her band Blue Summit and also sat in with the Infamous Stringdusters on the Main Stage Friday night.
Lindsay Lou not only hosted the WinterWonderWomen sets, but fronted her own tent sets along with Emma Rose, and sat in with Lil’ Smokies, Greensky Bluegrass and Leftover Salmon on the Main Stage.
From Salt Lake City, Utah, Katia Racine and Amanda Grapes are forces to be reckoned with in their high-energy band Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, who packed the tent and Schmiggity’s with their foot-stomping crowd.
Megan Letts lets it all out on her vocals and keys in her band, Mama Magnolia. Bevin Foley brought the fire on her fiddle during Trout Steak Revival’s two sets this weekend.
Fresh on our radar from this festival is Kanene Donehey Pipkin, whose vocals soared on the Main Stage with her band The Lone Bellow. And of course, the previously highlighted Big Richard band is a force of its own, with Bonnie Sims (mandolin), Joy Adams (cello), Emma Rose (bass and guitar) and Eve Panning (fiddle).
#4 Wrapping Up the Main Stage
We couldn’t highlight just one closing set from the three nights of WinterWonderGrass Steamboat, because they were all just so damn good. You don’t throw a festival for 10 years without knowing exactly which band will leave your audience walking away impressed with the final act of the day.
The Infamous Stringdusters embraced the dumping snow with the final set of Night 1, and brought along some friends for the ride! Kyle Tuttle and John Mailander came up on stage during their cover of Bill Emerson’s “Home of the Red Fox,” and we got to see even more AJ Lee during Bill Monroe’s “Molly & Tenbrooks.”
Leftover Salmon, the festival-loving Colorado favorite, sure did embrace their Saturday night closing set. Fireworks filled the sky while the band played “Powder Day”, which may (or may not) reference the amount of snow the band was skiing around in earlier that day. Hearts were full of love in the remembrance of their former banjoist Mark Vann who passed away over 20 years ago on this date (March 4th), as well as the fresh pain from the loss of David Lindley who the band honored by playing She Took Off My Romeos and Mercury Blues.
Greensky Bluegrass pressed on through another wet, snowy evening with two sets of music on Sunday night, and left the entire festival crowd feeling all the vibes of 10 years of WinterWonderGrass in Colorado. Lindsay Lou joined the stage for some Greensky LOUGrass during “In Control” and then absolutely crushed it during “I Belong to the Band – HalleLOUjah” (Rev. Gary Davis). The Lincoln Lights (Andrew Lincoln) were dancing all over the sky while the snow continued to fall throughout their sets.
It was a beautiful end to this incredible winter festival.
#3 The Music Never Ends with Grass-After-Dark Sets
Just when you think it can’t get no better then it does – WinterWonderGrass music festival continues late into the evening at venues throughout Steamboat Springs.
If you had the energy to continue after the last tent set at the festival grounds, you were treated to some pretty outstanding late-night music from some of the best bands on the lineup with the festival’s Grass-After-Dark music schedule.
The Kitchen Dwellers kicked off night one at the Grand Ballroom, with Unit 14 warming up the stage. Pixie and the Partygrass Boys and Sicard Hollow turned up that heat at the favorite local venue Schmiggity’s. And Trout Steak Revival, who just announced they will be going on a hiatus after this WinterWonderGrass festival, played their final set up the mountain at the Thunderhead Lodge.
For those of you still hanging in there for Saturday night festivities, you were in for a treat. We were at the Grand Ballroom early to catch one of our favorite local bands, Tenth Mountain Division, opening up for The Lil Smokies. Big Richard fans had an easy walk, since the Thunderhead Lodge set was moved due to high winds. (Hey – it’s a winter festival at a ski resort. You never know what to expect!)
Neal Francis played his second set of the day at Schmiggity’s, where his keyboard-driven rock ‘n roll continued to keep the late-night attendees on their feet dancing.
Hopefully, you got your rest, because on Sunday evening (Monday morning!) Leftover Salmon (with opening band Saints and Liars) got to close out the entire 10-Year WinterWonderGrass Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at the Grand Ballroom. In true Leftover Salmon fashion, the stage was packed with a multitude of sit-in musicians, including Tyler Grant, Kyle Tuttle, and Jake Simpson, and a birthday homage to drummer Alwyn Robinson.
#2 The Adventure of a Winter Festival
A music festival that takes place at a ski resort in Colorado in March is NOT for the faint of heart.
WinterWonderGrass takes an adventurous soul who is ready to embrace the elements. But the reward is just oh, so good.
Colorado has seen no shortage of snow this Winter, and even though the festival dates were pushed back a week, Mother Nature wasn’t slowing down just because a few thousand people wanted to hang outside to watch some of their favorite bands play music.
The lighting technicians just love to play with the beautiful snowflakes falling down, and it just adds to the winter ambiance. Bundle up in your neon 80s ski suit, because you’re just going to have to embrace the snow.
The drive to Steamboat Springs, CO is just another part of the amazing adventure, as is the ski mountain itself!
Steamboat Springs is one of the most beautiful ski towns – and has one of the nicest crowds (locals and tourists) – making this festival destination one of our favorites. Traversing mountain passes to get to a festival just makes it all the more appreciated. And hitting fresh powder on your skis or snowboard before the music even begins just makes this one of the most unique festival experiences in the world.
#1 The Culture & Community of WinterWonderGrass
And our #1 favorite part of WinterWonderGrass Colorado is the CULTURE of the festival itself.
It’s no WONDER that this festival is so beloved.
It’s because of the staff – from the security to the bartenders to the dozens of volunteers who help make this festival go smoothly every single day.
It’s because of the local businesses – the local venues, local breweries, local food trucks and local businesses who step up to create a Colorado community atmosphere.
It’s because of the bands and musicians – who give their everything during each set, who sit-in with other bands to keep the energy flowing, who return year after year to play for us.
AND It’s because of YOU – the festival attendees who embrace the weather and the winter vibe with their amazing attitudes and smiles, their funky festival gear, and their energy to dance the days and nights away.
Our hearts are bursting full of love for this amazing Winter music festival, this beautiful state of Colorado, and the incredible fest friends that we have made along the way.
We are so excited for our next (warmer) WonderGrass adventure taking place in April 2023 in Baja Mexico. We are always so impressed by the quality of festivals that are curated by this WonderGrass team, and can’t wait to see what they have in store for us with their inaugural international beach-front festival.
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