YarmonyGrass 2017: Music and Magic in the Mountains
Unicorns, happy people, and pirates (non-thieving) welcome.
Through the Rocky Mountains, along the banks of the Colorado River, music lovers flocked to set up camp at the 12th annual YarmonyGrass festival on Rancho Del Rio in Bond, Colorado.
Winding through the dirt road drive, festivarians are welcomed with signs indicating the ranch rules; “Yes, to Unicorns,” “Yes to (non-thieving) Pirates,” “Slow down 3.7 mph!” and “Almost There!” Volunteers at the ticket gate greet festival-goers with the official festy-greeting YARRRRRRR! as they admit you into the pirate-unicorn-loving grounds.
For those eager to get the weekend started, YarmonyGrass kicked off on Thursday evening with a set of music by the Kitchen Dwellers on the main Chief Yarmony stage. If you don’t like heat, stay out of the Kitchen, because this band is on fire in Colorado, which is more like a second-home to this Montana-based group. Closing out the main Chief Yarmony stage was The Magic Beans, a popular Colorado jam-band that brings the funk to the bluegrass party. Music continued at the Yarmony Saloon with The RunniKine keeping the crowd alive until 1 a.m.
By Friday morning, with the hot sun beating into tents and the sounds of air pumps filling up floats, people begin waking up to enjoy the day on the river, while others arriving are setting up camp and getting their weekend party started.
Happy Hour starts daily at 10 a.m. just before the uniquely iconic “Floating Stage” sets sail at noon. What exactly is this Floating Stage? It’s a one-of-a-kind stage where musicians play on two rafts rigged up as a stage. Yes, they actually bring their instruments onto the river for some serious pickin’. All you need to do is hop into the river with your raft and grab onto the boat stage as if it’s a tugboat and enjoy the ride down the Colorado River for some pure bluegrass bliss.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to participate with the floating stage, gather a group of friends, drive 6 miles up the river to Radium and raft down to catch up with the floating stage from there. If you’re lucky, as we were, you’ll spot a Bald Eagle. We happened to see the national bird take a poop, which had us Yarrrrrrrring with laughter. Unfortunately, the rain and strong winds prevented the floating stage from setting afloat on Saturday afternoon, so we didn’t get to hook up with the stage, but fun was still had through the cold rain and lightening.
After spending the day on the river listening to music and hanging with friends, bands begin to bounce between the Chief Yarmony stage and the side stage Yarmony Saloon in the early evening.
Friday night brought us sets from Liver Down the River, another set from The Magic “String” Beans, Todd Snider, The Sweet Lillies, Emily Clark & the Passing Fancy, while Head for the Hills closed out the main stage.
And, the music doesn’t stop after the Saloon closes. Campers head back to the shelters and camp sites where you can find pickers pickin’ and people dancing and stargazing all through the early morning hours.
Saturday’s main stage music kicked off with another killer set by the Kitchen Dwellers, local Colorado bands Bonfire Dub, Coral Creek, and The Drunken Hearts. On the Yarmony Saloon stage, we saw Jay Roemer Band with Dave Carroll (Trampled by Turtles) and the Brad Parsons Band.
By late Saturday night the YarmonyGrass headliner band and original inspiration behind the festival, Railroad Earth, opened their set with their song Grandfather Mountain. Though the song is originally about Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the song introduced a powerful and spiritual sentiment as Chief Yarmony’s mountainous silhouette overlooks the ranch and festival grounds.
Lyrics from "Grandfather Mountain" - by Railroad Earth
“Many million years and counting
Laying on his back, counting stars
Up in the sky, above his head
Eyes and nose of solid granite,
They’re the oldest eyes upon the
Planet, watching ages come and go”
Another perfectly fitting song Railroad Earth graced us with was “Birds of America.” The song had special meaning for those of us who rafted from Radium to YarmonyGrass earlier that day because we had the experience of spotting a Bald Eagle perched in the trees on the bank of the mighty river. The band came back out to close their set with “On the Banks”, but the raucous crowd wouldn’t take “No” for an answer and demanded another song. So, they left us with a wild rendition of their new song “Blazin’ a Trail.”
Over on the Yarmony Saloon, Coral Creek continued to entertain the crowd through the wee early morning hours with their Dead Set.
While Sunday is the last day of music at the festival, it didn’t disappoint in its lineup with an extra floating stage set to make up for Saturday…
followed by appearances by Great American Taxi, Grant Farm with Andy Thorn (from Leftover Salmon). The festival closed out with a rowdy set by Vince Herman & Drew Emmitt (from Leftover Salmon) with friends who included Eli Emmitt (Drew’s son), Andy Thorn, Tyler Grant and Adrian Engfer.
Magical. This was the word most common word used by fans to describe YarmonyGrass.
YarmonyGrass is an intimate and small gathering of musicians and music lovers in the middle of the mountains, where there are no telecommunications, it’s truly an escape from the reality of our world. Everyone is there and in the moment, experiencing the magic of the music, mountains, friendship, and river.
The ending of this festival stirs particularly sad feelings. The sounds of rafts deflating filled the air all morning as people packed up camp to head home. Friends new and old embrace in laughter and say their goodbyes. The days of the floating river stage have come to an end. “See ya’ll Next Time.”
For more, check out our Yarmony Grass Spotlights:
Sam shares how it takes a team to pull of a Colorado River Festival so far away from civilization.
Andrew tells us how Yarmony Grass – and the famous floating stage – got its start.