If it’s Memorial Day weekend in Colorado Springs, it means MeadowGrass is back to the open festival season. Whether the weather is ready to cooperate or not, people are brought together by mountain scenery, craft beverages and plenty of music. This year’s 11th annual run will bring more than 20 local and national acts to the big yellow tent in Black Forest for three days of musical festivities, rooted in the eclectic realm of bluegrass, Americana, country, Southern rock and more. Of course, there are workshops, food vendors, kids activities, yoga, and on-site camping as well.
“Every year I go, I’m blown away with the music and discover bands I’ve never heard of,” says Nicole Nicoletta, festival director. “I appreciate Rocky Mountain Highway’s mission of bringing one-third local, one-third regional and one-third national music to the Pikes Peak region.”
So just who will make up that lineup? Here are highlights of this year’s MeadowGrass artists.
Hailing from Colorado Springs, the eclectic quintet is as much a loose-limbed jam band as they are a foot-stomping grassy act. Getting their start in 2013, the band brought mandolin player Jason Gilmore into the mix in 2017 to diversify their sound and to naturally pilot the intersections of bluegrass and improvisation.
Top Track on Spotify: “Wanted”
Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival
Singer-songwriter Daniel Rodriguez took a hiatus from the Boulder-based folk band Elephant Revival to record his solo debut record Your Heart, the Stars, the Milky Way, which released in February. The atmospheric nature of Rodriguez’s instrumentation gives room for rising vocal melodies and sky-lifting choruses. “I wanted to capture a sound I have never captured before,” Rodriguez says. “It’s a great album in my opinion, and that says something coming from my own worst critic.”
Top Track on Spotify: “Steal the Night Away”
The Ballroom Thieves
Far from local and even farther from your average pop band, the Boston-based trio Ballroom Thieves self-define as a rock band in a folk suit. The trio has brought home a collection of Boston Music Awards in recent years, including Americana Artist of the Year, Folk Artist of the Year and Live Artist of the Year. The band heads to MeadowGrass after releasing two EPs last year.
Top Track on Spotify: “Bees”
The last 12 years have been a great start for Patrick Dethlefs’ music career, highlighted by winning the Denver-based Swallow Hill Music’s prestigious Best TeenSongwriter award in 2009 and opening for well-known Colorado acts like Nathaniel Rateliff and Paper Bird. Dethlefs lyrics are dark at times and guitar chord progressions filled with haunting melodies, but he brings a soothing and approachable sincerity.
Top Spotify Track: “Blue Eyes”
Tea Leaf Green
San Francisco jam band Tea Leaf Green started in 1996 at San Francisco State University. The five-man band draws on the psychedelic history of San Francisco’s groovable hippie scene to forge rollicking, funk-laced jams. “I think what we’re most looking forward to about playing the festival is a chance to get back in front of a Colorado audience,” says drummer Scott Rager. “Over the years we’ve cultivated a loyal fan base in the area, and there always seems to be a real enthusiasm for our band and music in general in Colorado.”
Top Spotify Track: “Easy to Be Your Lover”
The indie country band from Austin, Texas, won a 2013 Grammy for Best Recording Package. Led by brothers Willy Braun, guitar and vocals, and Cody, mandolin player, the band has played together for over 20 years. Their latest album, Sunset Motel, is a politically-charged record with strong hints of southern twang.
Top Spotify Track: “Wicked Twisted Road”
Sample the Sounds of MeadowGrass
Want an introduction to some of your new favorites? Spotify the MeadowGrass 2019 Official Playlist and discover your personal can’t-miss artists. Get started with Reckless Kelly’s “Nobodies Girl,” Daniel Rodriguez’ “Growing Pains” and Whiskey Kate’s “Chains.”
How To Head for the Forest
La Foret Conference and Retreat Center
Family friendly activities. Kids 12 and under free with paid adult.
Friday features the second annual MeadowGrass Beer Tasting.
Tickets: $48 – $268