Colorado’s own Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats headline Friday’s Telluride Blues & Brews lineup. (Courtesy photo)

After an unexpected year away, the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival returns with a stacked lineup of blues regulars and newcomers this weekend.

Patrick Shehan, SBG Productions partnership director, explained the team behind the annual September event, as well as Telluride Jazz Festival, is excited to be back, even if they had to adapt since last summer’s cancellation.

“Jazz was a nice warm up for us. We’re definitely feeling good. It’s been a year of curveballs, is what we like to say around the office, but we’re rolling with the punches and getting it done. We’re looking forward to the event,” he said.

When original headliner Buddy Guy withdrew due to health concerns, the festival replaced him with another elder statesman of the genre — Taj Mahal.

“It’s a stacked lineup. We were bummed when Buddy had to cancel, but understood. … We reached out to Taj and he was into it,” Shehan explained. “Buddy Guy and Taj are some of the only remaining blues legends, so to be able to get Taj in there was pretty amazing.”

Other than Taj, who closes out Saturday’s schedule, this year’s headliners include Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats on Friday, and a one-of-a-kind “super jam” with Lukas Nelson, Rateliff, Larkin Poe, The Allman Betts Band, Jamestown Revival and Amythyst Kiah Sunday night.

“If you’re talking like rock, folk and blues music right now I don’t think you can get more current than those artists that are on the stage right there. It’s some of the hottest artists doing it right now, and they’re all going to play together for a super jam. It’s pretty special,” Shehan said.

Rateliff has played the festival before, but the Colorado artist has been a mainstay on the national stage since his 2015 appearance at the Sheridan Opera House.

“We had them in 2015, and they were one of the lowest artists on our lineup. They had just formed. By the time we booked them and they got here, they exploded. The opening night opera house show, it was so special. It was an incredible moment,” Shehan said.

Other festival regulars this year include Samantha Fish, Anders Osborne and Monophonics. But there’s also some newer, maybe lesser-known, acts that Shehan is excited for the Telluride crowd to see, including Larkin Poe, Liz Cooper, J & The Causeways and Quinn Sullivan.

“We always try to do a mix between the legends and the people pushing it forward. The way things worked out this year, I’d say there’s a lot of younger artists that are really pushing the envelope on the future of blues and rock music,” he added. “All of these bands are bands we love and we know will put on an incredible show. It’s a lot of bands that are very hot right now, current and driving blues into the future.”

While there won’t be a Grand Tasting this year, the “brews” part of the festival will still be on full display. Sierra Nevada, a title sponsor, is releasing a San Juan Billy Goat Blonde, which is brewed with hops from the Billy Goat Hop Farm in Montrose. The High Altitude Lounge will again feature “rare beers that you can’t get anywhere else,” Shehan explained, while the House of Brews is featuring only cans of beer this year, which means more variety than ever before.

The festival has been sold out, but attendees should be aware of pandemic-related protocols, mainly showing proof of vaccination or a negative test result within 48 hours of the event. For proof of vaccination, people may show the card itself, a picture of card or the myColorado app. The festival is also partnering with Curative in providing testing.

There is also still an indoor mask mandate within San Miguel County, which the festival adheres to. That means attendees must wear a mask inside festival venues, as well as at the several late-night venues throughout town.

For more information about the festival, including the day-to-day schedule, visit tellurideblues.com.