In May 2009, around 300 music lovers gathered under the ponderosa pines at La Foret Conference Center in Black Forest for the first MeadowGrass Music Festival, an eclectic experiment run mostly by volunteers. From those humble grassroots, the well-loved local music fest will celebrate its 10th rendition this year, May 25-27. Over the last decade, MeadowGrass has grown into its own as an acclaimed gathering of local, regional and national acts with over 3,000 annual festivalgoers from Colorado and beyond, all anchored underneath the trademark striped yellow tent.
“The fact that MeadowGrass has made it 10 years is a testament to all the support we’ve received from the community and tons of hard work put in by countless numbers of volunteers,” says festival director Steve Harris, who has been involved with booking and organizing MeadowGrass since its inception. “We’ve weathered fires and floods, and learned a tremendous amount along the way in the course of putting the festival together every year. It’s about family and friends coming together to celebrate magic in the Pikes Peak region.”
The Steel Wheels
The string quartet from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia keeps the Friday night tradition of an acoustic headliner-a nod to the local friends-of-the-fest Black Rose Acoustic Society.
The Grammy-nominated Massachusetts artist brings his bright, bluegrassy-pop trio to the Friday lineup. After attending the prestigious Berklee School of Music for a year, Glier quit to tour and play over 300 shows a year in “every open mic, smoky dive bar, bar mitzvah, club and house concert that would have us,” he explained in his 2016 TED Talk on creativity.
Hailed by Rolling Stone as a “blue-collar hero,” Saturday night’s headliner from Georgia drew childhood inspiration from Springsteen. Pope has grown into a formidable force over a decade of making bluesy, country rock with a fiercely DIY ethic.
San Francisco’s Bluhm and her bandmates started recording Van Sessions as they drove long highways between shows, belting classic covers that quickly went viral. She’s paired her powerful, soulful alto with artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Infamous Stringdusters and Ryan Adams, and her Sunday night headlining set will feature an ace backing band of session musicians from Nashville and Memphis.
When people first hear Cowles throw back his giant curly mane and let out a yowl, they often stop in their tracks, wondering how a sound that big can arise from the small, bespectacled white guy onstage. Raised in Colorado Springs, and formerly of Fort Collins band You Me and Apollo, Cowles is starting to blow up nationwide with his catchy, indie neo-soul.
Several local favorites fill the bill this year. MeadowGrass veterans Grass It Up bring their vibrant mandolin virtuosity to Saturday afternoon. Edith (formerly Edith Makes A Paper Chain) will play its indie-folk harmonies Saturday afternoon. Sunday Morning in the Round features the folk of recent Springs transplant Edie Carey, playing with Fort Collins’ Justin Roth and Sarah Sample from Wyoming.
And the local hardscrabble, hard-drinking Tejon Street Corner Thieves make their MeadowGrass debut Friday night. Their self-described “outlaw blues and trash-grass pioneer” sound is perfect for the legendary late night show.
Then and Now: MeadowGrass Alumni
Over the years, the keen eye for emerging talent and the freedom to book lesser-known acts has created a parade of MeadowGrass alums who’ve gone on to much bigger stages.
Here are a few favorites:
Gregory Alan Isakov
MG 2010 with albums in hand-drawn cardboard sleeves
2018 The Boulder songwriter headlines Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the second time, backed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra with formidable legend Patty Griffin opening.
2018 The band now headlines its expansively sunny, Laurel-Canyon folk rock at the illustrious likes of the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks.
MG 2010 and 2014
2018 The Nederland, Colorado, fiddle-gypsy-folk band headlines Red Rocks with Blind Pilot and Hiss Golden Messenger-an incredible lineup.
2018 One of the bestselling, most-recognizable Colorado exports with his neo-soul outfit The Night Sweats, Rateliff regularly headlines Red Rocks-two nights this year.