Must-See Bands of Meadowgrass

    The premiere music festival is back this Memorial Day weekend. These are the bands you don’t want to miss in your own backyard.

    MeadowGrass music festival
    Paper Bird, featured at this year's MeadowGrass music festival

    Right about the time you need it most, along comes MeadowGrass. Shortly after those last spring snows have (hopefully) gone and you’ve pulled your tent out of its winter hibernation, Southern Colorado’s premiere intimate music festival shows up for Memorial Day weekend. For nine years running, the event features everything you hope for in a Colorado festival: camping among tall pines, short hikes to stunning mountain views and, oh yeah, three days and nights of amazing music.

    MeadowGrass never fails to gather a vibrant and exceedingly talented mix of genres and artists—with a wider community actively engaged in supporting its scene in the most crucial way possible: dancing wildly, trying not to spill their beer. This year will feature the usual array of local, regional and national talent. Here are a few acts you don’t want to miss

    Ben Sollee

    Signature Sound: Modern folk and Kentucky bluegrass with classical appeal

    The Kentucky-born singer-songwriter and cello virtuoso takes the job of folk singer to a new level, complete with an avid commitment to preserve the environment by biking to shows. Yes, biking with a cello—across America. If that’s not enough to make you want to see this guy play, the soulful voice and original sound he brings to the stage surely will. His elegant blend of Appalachian mountain music, classical and modern orchestral sensibilities, and folk-pop arrangements are impossible not to enjoy.

    Top Tracks to Spotify:

    Letting Go”—Fun folk-pop song with songwriter’s depth; my favorite.

    A Change Is Gonna Come”—An upbeat interpretation of the classic soul song with original lyrics. 

    Gipsy Moon

    Signature Sound: Gypsy jazz, folk and bluegrass

    “Colorado is full of amazing natural beauty. … It has this untouched wildness about it, and it often reminds me that I am just a visitor here,” says lead vocalist Mackenzie Page when I ask about the Nederland-based band’s Colorado inspirations. “I sometimes feel that way about music. It is such an ancient art I can’t help but feel like a visitor, lucky enough to experience its magic.” Gipsy Moon will be a perfect fit for MeadowGrass’ down-home community vibe. “In some ways, I think music wouldn’t exist without community to experience it. It’s like the old saying ‘If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ ” The smoky vocals and eclectic excellence of Gipsy Moon will be highlight sounds made in Black Forest.

    Top Tracks to Spotify:

    Goodbye for Now”—A short but powerful heartbreaker with perfect two-part vocal and acoustic guitar arrangement.

    Devil in Mind”—It starts as a blazing bluegrass instrumental and leaves you in the throes of a smoke filled ’40s jazz-blues arrangement. “The song itself is about forgiveness,” Page tells me.

    Paper Bird

    Signature Sound: Modern folk with big vocals and pop sensibility

    The fast growing popularity of Denver’s Paper Bird is well deserved. Their self-titled latest album, produced by John Oates—yes, as in Hall and Oates—is a firm step forward in the development of their sound and a solid statement of their intent to be the next Mile High City breakout band. If you need to be told why not to miss Paper Bird in your own backyard, then you need to hit Spotify for an education in the Colorado sound done right.

    Top Tracks to Spotify:

    Lost Boys”—A gritty banjo-driven track with smooth, lonesome vocals wrapped around a creepy and infectious melody. What’s not to love about that!

    To The Light”—Showcases the rock sound of their more recent work.

    accidentals coming to meadowgrass
    The Accidentals (3.4.2016) | B.Hockensmith Photography

    The Accidentals 

    Signature Sound: Folk Americana with a touch of garage rock.

    The folk-rock and roots trio brings a fresh brand of modern Americana steeped in great musicianship, female vocals and wide variety. Moments of garage-rock grit stand out against the complexity of string and harmony-heavy folk arrangements.

    Top Tracks to Spotify:

    Michigan and Again”—The 2016 single drew national media attention as a love song for their home state.

    Ghost of a Lie”—My personal favorite showcases the band’s electric side.

    Milo Hayes Meld (Charlie Milo And Bruce Hayes)

    Signature Sound: Mountain jam music with jazz improv

    Both Milo and Hayes have lit up clubs in Colorado Springs and across the West for many years. Blending funk and dance rhythms with the exciting atmosphere of improvisational jazz and jam music, Milo’s trio regularly features some of the best players in the Springs. “I love MeadowGrass,” Milo told me. “It’s very close to my heart since I grew up in the Forest.” Milo’s improv mastery combined with Hayes’ ace songwriting and virtuoso abilities on multiple instruments should be unforgettable.

    Top Tracks to Spotify:

    Abe” (Milo)—Hard jamming from the downbeat and highly danceable.

    Harvest” (Hayes from Live in Salida)—A demonstration of Hayes’ exceptional lyrical ability.

    Joan Osborne

    A late addition to the lineup, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter brings her smoky blend of folk, blues and soul to MeadowGrass as the Saturday night headliner.

    MeadowGrass 2017

    May 26-28
    La Foret Conference and Retreat Center, Black Forest
    Get the full lineup, info and tickets at