It’s one thing to hear blistering rock ’n’ roll performed by your favorite artists in a large venue along with thousands of other cheering fans. The experience is intensified when you duck into a small club, sidle up to the stage and tie your jacket sleeves around your waist. Oh, you are going to sweat, no doubt. Your face will melt, your hair will do the Maxell and if you forget your earplugs, your ears will ring for days. (Don’t forget your ear plugs.)
The Ride Festival this weekend is bringing another diverse group of bands to the valley, beginning with its first-ever Friday show featuring the first of two nights of Widespread Panic. Saturday and Sunday boast two full days of both A-listers like Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and up-and-coming bands that may very well become your new favorite jam. Telluride Town Park is indeed a stunning setting for everything from boot-stomping rock to lolling in the grass with your best gal, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of rock music, nighttime is the right time.
After dark, Night Ride shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday present a delicious opportunity to engage more intimately with both bands you know and love, and those just waiting to be discovered.
SHERIDAN OPERA HOUSE
The historic old opera house has had over a century’s worth of notable acts tread its venerable old boards, but when the Ride sets up shop, the risk of raising Sarah Bernhardt’s ghost from the great beyond is very real. This ain’t no light opera. These shows go to 11.
Friday night at 10 p.m., Boulder’s stellar rock trio Rose Hill Drive takes the stage. When they exploded on the scene in the mid-2000s, Rolling Stone named them one of the top artists to watch. They toured with the Who, Van Halen and Stone Temple Pilots before taking a long hiatus to explore new projects and start families. Rock fans are no doubt delighted they’ve returned with a vengeance, bringing a fresh approach to their hard, bluesy, psychedelic sensibilities. They’ve been touring a Led Zeppelin set of late. Maybe they’ll dish it up Friday before their Main Stage set on Sunday.
Black Pistol Fire will peel the paint off the walls Saturday night at 10 p.m. This blazing blues-rock duo is Eric Owen on drums and Kevin McKeown on guitar and vocals. For just two musicians onstage, they have monstrous sound.
Sunday night there will be two bands. Temperance Movement will raise the thermostat during their 10:30 p.m. show and at midnight Big Something will throw down their jammy insanity. Temperance Movement’s Phil Campbell is the epitome of a rock lead singer — possessed, kinetic, and brimming with confidence and verve. Big Something will make it easy to forget you started your evening at midnight. Heading toward dawn was never so groovy.
The Liberty’s elegant shoebox-shaped room is set to reverberate Friday through Sunday. Pony Bradshaw is Friday’s featured Night Ride act at 10 p.m. James R.R. Bradshaw. Jr. hails from Chatsworth, Georgia, and lists as his interests, intoxicants, colloquialisms, bodies of water, smoked pig parts, severe weather and tending yard. He describes himself as a Southern Rimbaud with songs that are “the nomads now.” It’s a date.
Saturday night’s band is The Commonheart from Pittsburgh. Rock, horns and heartfelt vocals characterize this supremely talented outfit, whose mission it is to embrace the sounds of blues, soul and gospel and gild them with their own stamp. They’re on their ascendency. Definitely see them in this intimate venue. Show at 10:30 p.m.
Another Ride favorite, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown will own the joint on Sunday night at 10 p.m. They call themselves loud and proud. Perfect.
MOON AT O’BANNON’S
Talk about a little stage that has seen thousands of bands plug in and get down, including Ride headliner Widespread Panic. The Moon is one of Telluride’s more storied music venues. It’s small, dark and subterranean — the perfect setting for Denver’s The Yawpers, who will set up shop on both Friday and Saturday nights (10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively). The band describes their music as “punk, blues, country and self-loathing.” A local fan says they play “Jack Black rock.”
Sunday night at 10 p.m. the Nashville duo, Los Colognes — Jay Rutherford, guitar and vocals, and Aaron Mortenson on drums and vocals — has a sound that hearkens to the glory days of FM radio in the late 1970s to mid-80s. Shimmering and alive and rich in harmony and evocative themes, Los Colognes will transport the listener into another space, another time.
Once this hip little noodle bar and bourbon dispensary located downstairs in the historic Roma building packs away the ramen (oh, don’t you worry, the bourbon will still flow), it morphs into the Ride’s fourth Night Ride venue. They will host Heavy Diamond Ring (is that not the best band name ever?) Friday at 10 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. This is a cool indie band out of Denver whose previous project was Paper Birds. Sarah Anderson and Paul DeHaven call their sound “road trip music” and “open-hearted all-American folk-rock.” The pair will be joined by Blake Stepan, Mike Lang and Orion Tate Ignelzi. This will be a refreshing chill cocktail of sound.
Night Ride tickets are part of Ride Festival three-day general admission or VIP passes, with the exception of Sheridan Opera House shows.
Single-day passholders can also gain admission to Night Ride venues only on the day purchased (Friday, Saturday or Sunday), with the exception of Sheridan Opera House shows. Sheridan Opera House tickets can be purchased separately at ridefestival.com.