There is nothing quite like the mountains of Colorado in late summer. I like to play in the snow as much as the next girl, but seeing all that brilliant sunshine beaming off the creek, rock walls and the trees only further enhanced my excitement. The clouds form mystical shapes in the sky as we make our way up the legendary canyon on the way to Nederland. I can’t help but to sing one of my favorite Cheese songs, Up the Canyon, as we make this beautiful drive. I now understand where the inspiration for Moseley’s lyrics came from. In a little over a half an hour we had ascended over 3000 feet from our starting point in Boulder. Nestled in the most beautiful valley at 8000 feet above sea level, I feel a little dizzy as I exit the car. This could be because my poor little body is used to living next to the ocean in San Francisco or maybe it’s the excitement spilling out of me knowing this weekend is going to rock!
While this is the 12th year of this annual celebration of music, food, vendors, micro brewed beer and camping, I only just discovered this well kept secret last year. Although I do not intend to miss another one and “why” might you ask? What is it about this tiny mountain town that makes for such an intimate setting for a festival and more attractive than so many of the festivals I have been to with 10 times more people competing for dance space? Well for one, the music: the featured music is considered Bluegrass, Jazz, Jamband, Jamgrass and World genres. Up to 6 bands performed each day on one stage with acoustic ‘tweener’ sets between each band. There is also lots of music, food, arts and crafts, and vendors selling their wares filled the grounds near the mirror like Barker Reservoir.
One of the best and most unexpected tweener sets on the first day was Billy Nershi himself. He played solo for a few songs, later that day as well Aaron Redner from Hot Buttered Rum stepped on to the stage from where he was tuning up for his set. Nershi graciously moved over and the two of them just started going off, expertly playing into each other’s rhythm with Billy on the acoustic guitar and Aaron mastering his fiddle. With the crowd kept cheering, Billy thanked the crowd saying that he wasn’t scheduled to play until the following day but that the festival host, Michigan Mike, had offered him all the beer he could drink if he came out a day early. This only had the crowd cheering louder.
Another beautiful thing about Nedfest is the special appearances that happen during the sets. Most of the bands stay for the entire festival, this meant that there was a special mixing of bands all weekend. Probably my favorite was the sets of Hot Buttered Cornmeal. Seeing both Allie and Aaron dueling it out with their considerable fiddle skills caused my heart to catch on fire. We were also treated to special appearances from both Jason Hann and Michael Travis coming out simultaneously during The Motet. The most special performance of the weekend was Holy Kimoto. With superstars Kyle Hollingsworth, Steve Kimock, Jason Hann and Micheal Travis at the helm, how can they steer you wrong? With little to no time to practice since they all have conflicting schedules, the level of improvisation was mind blowing. This was only the third time these musical experts had come together to play. It was the perfect way to end the weekend.
Nedfest is a small music festival that oozes positive energy, amazing vibes, and some serious fun. Imagine a place where everyone is smiling, dancing, hula-hooping, or just chillin’ on a large grassy area and you've got Nedfest. What other festival allows you to feel like you are given a backstage pass for the weekend? In fact you often found yourself chatting with band members amongst the crowd as they themselves take in the Nedfest experience. I hope to see some of you in Nederland next August. This not a festival to miss. In fact, I am currently working on getting my parents to move to Ned, I hear that a house is for sale right in between Jeff Austin and Billy Nershi’s.