LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In The Air

Gentle reader, you might recall that we just attended the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colo., with some of our best chums. It was a fabulous sojourn, filled with the anticipation of the total solar eclipse.

By and large, these festivals, particularly the ones hosted by Planet Bluegrass, are filled with blissful vibes and fascinating diversity — oh, and fabulous music. Just the people-watching alone can keep one distracted from the cares of the world. This was time spent with five of the best friends for whom a woman could hope.

As we drove, we listened to the music that was on the festival billing.

Upon arrival, our party enjoyed a brief tour of the charming town of Lyons, in the foothills of the Rockies, followed by pizza and beer and lots of laughs.

It is very difficult to adequately capture the natural and humanmade beauty of Lyons, filled with buildings built out of the local red stone, accompanied by peaceful public spaces and interesting sculptures, but here are a few snapshots.

Our favorite was the adorable bear family that greeted us to the festival grounds. Wristbands on, we were all set for day one of three days of great music!

But first, three of us drove back up from our lodgings in Longmont. Colo., in order to stand in the line for numbers for the tarp run. I scored what seemed to me to be a high number, 123, and it turned out to be the best number we got in the subsequent nights.

The next morning, Jeff and Ken secured a great location for us, and we settled in for some tunes.

The Colorado sun grew hot, and we wandered around the grounds to buy beverages, food and merchandise. Everyone filtered down to the river now and then for some shade and cold, freshing mountain water. The festival also includes lots of activities for children, interesting art and huge bonus, REAL BATHROOMS! The festival grounds are on the location of an old farm, the remnant silo bearing silent witness to this history.

Festival fashion is very western U.S. outdoor wear, with tons of interesting T-shirts and a wide array of hats to shield festivarians from the bright Colorado sun. I noted that there is very little of the outlandish costuming that we see at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and somewhat less diversity in the crowd. However, the musical acts were diverse. Planet Bluegrass has its act together.

These flags bear the names of each of the 14K-plus Colorado mountain peaks. Longmont Peak is the closest.

While we lounged on our tarps, two ravens flew by over the canyon walls of the St. Vrain River.

It was mesmerizing to watch this guy quietly build these stone cairns in the river and then to watch the tubers dodge it as they careened by. There were many frolicking folks of all ages.

Mary Gauthier was a late-entry performer in the Wildflower Pavilion, there for the weeklong song school. She was very passionate, and with her we all sang “This Land is Your Land.”

We took turns decorating our personal tarp and slice of heaven for these three days. The weather was hot, and we were mostly off-the-grid. The chill festival vibe populated by extremely polite people added to the joy. I ate my fill of Asian dumplings each night for supper from a Boulder, Colo.-based food booth.

The performance I most anticipated was Rhiannon Giddens, a favorite of mine. She was a showstopper, and on the first night, everything I had hoped for and more.  I can say with all confidence that there were conversion emotions throughout this musical experience. She sang songs of justice and love, with passion and grace, and told meaningful, heartfelt stories in her intros. Here is just one video of her singing one of her many songs I love. Give her a listen and watch for her to win some awards for her album “Freedom Highway“.

What lucky and happy children I witnessed here and there.

Climbing is a favorite activity in this area, and they start ’em young.

Jim and I enjoyed the black raspberry dark chocolate chip ice cream each day.

Festival camping is not for us, but it was sure fun to look at the creative camps. Leave No Trace holds a contest in their booth for sustainable festivation camping and these folks are CLEVER.

I used some of my tarp time to catch up on my reading, including the eclipse book, and my husband enjoyed The Denver Post. We were relieved when the sun began to set behind the huge cottonwood trees in the tarp area, shade that everyone has been hugging all day. I heard a flock of cedar waxwings in the trees bordering the grounds.

When the sun disappeared, everyone got out their fleece jackets.

On the last night, Rachel Price’s voice, anchoring Lake Street Diver, soared through the canyon.

The festival was closed late Sunday night by the talented Dave Rawlings Machine. Rawlings and Gillian Welch met all of my expectations and were a very close second for my favorite performance. Their new album, “Poor David’s Almanack” is most excellent! The set was wickedly good and included my personal favorite “Short-Haired Woman Blues.”

Our route home included another night at the historic Franklin Hotel in Deadwood, S.D., built in 1903 (Theodore Roosevelt slept here) and a drive filled with talk of attending another festival in upcoming years, listening to new musical discoveries like Elephant Revival.

If you’ve never checked out the groovy vibes of roots music, AKA, Americana, I urge you to do so pronto. Find your bliss!

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