I moved back to Telluride in 2013. It had been 15 years since I lived in Telluride full-time. On Sunday, I’ll leave Telluride after six years and punctuate what for me has been Telluride 2.0.
I have many highlights from my time in Telluride the last six years, the climax being the birth of my fourth child, Lollie, who was born on Oct. 25, 2016. Montrose does good birth, let’s put it that way.
Coaching my son Benji in hockey, lots of powder days, plenty of good bike rides, new friends, old ones, deejaying at KOTO and going on to serve as the development director there — my cup has overflowed with joyful times in Telluride 2.0.
But one of the best moments for me was when Marta Tarbell, my former editor at the Telluride Times-Journal in the 1990s, and the then-editor of The Watch, approached me in 2014 and asked, “Would you consider picking up your music column? You’re such a musicologist and rock ’n’ roll historian.”
Moi? Really? Well, if someone says it, maybe it’s true. I accepted and began writing a weekly music column under the moniker “One Step Ahead of the Blues,” the same name I used back in the ’90s and the same name of my radio show on KOTO.
At that point, I had not written an article or a column in 15 years. And getting back into the groove of writing was like falling in love again. Words are magical, and stringing them together in unique, informative and humorous ways is sublime. Writing a column gives you the kind of freedom with words that borders on alchemy.
I’ve written over 200 columns. Most of them are forgettable, some are pretty good, and a few are solid. I’m proud of most of them and one or two have been pretty awesome.
The column that received the most attention was one I wrote about Fare Thee Well in Chicago in 2015 called “A skull and rose by any other name: How Trey put the Grateful back in the Dead.” This piece was the one that got the most traction. It was well-traveled over the internet and made its way into the “References” section of the Fare Thee Well Wikipedia page.
I’ve had the pleasure to interview artists such as George Porter Jr., Robert Mercurio, Karl Denson, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, Mike Campbell, Jerry Joseph, Christine Lakeland, Sam Bush, Sharon Jones, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Jon Cleary, Neal Casal and multiple members of Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, and Big Something.
If you’re familiar with the column, you know I live in a world of superlatives. Things have a way of being the best, or the most remarkable. So I put together several Top 10 lists from the last five years.
Best shows in the park
1. Pearl Jam, Ride Festival, 2016
2. Gregg Allman, Blues & Brews, 2015
3. Neil Young, Telluride Town Park, 2016
4. Steve Winwood, Blues & Brews, 2017
5. Robert Plant, Blues & Brews, 2018
6. Sturgill Simpson, Bluegrass, 2018
7. Greensky Bluegrass, Bluegrass, 2017
8. Sharon Jones, Blues & Blues, 2015
9. The Funky Meters with Dr. John, Jazz Festival, 2018
10. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bluegrass, 2018
Best theater shows
1. Beck, Palm Theater, March 2017
2. Jimmy Cliff, Telluride Conference Center, July 2015
3. Galactic, Sheridan Opera House, March 2018
4. Trigger Hippy, Sheridan Opera House, July 2015
5. Stephen Marley, Sheridan Opera House, March 2019
6. Big Something, Sheridan Opera House, March 2017
7. Greensky Bluegrass, Palm Theater, June 2017
8. Leftover Salmon, Sheridan Opera House, March 2017
9. Karl Denson, Palm Theater March 2018
10. Temperence Movement, Sheridan Opera House, July 2016
1. Tom Petty, “Hypnotic Eye” 2014
2. Galactic, “Into the Deep” 2015
3. Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” 2017
4. Beck, “Morning Phase” 2014
5. War on Drugs, “Lost in the Dream” 2014
6. Greensky Bluegrass, “If Sorrows Swim” 2014
7. JJ Grey, “Ol’ Glory” 2015
8. Leftover Salmon, “Something Higher” 2018
9. Orgone, “Mixtape” 2018
No. 10 on my list of best albums of the last five years is Futurebirds’ album “Teamwork,” which doesn’t even come out until November. But I’ve been listening to it for the past month and it is the best record of the year, hands down. There are 11 songs on it and all are good.
And Futurebirds are playing the KOTO Street Dance Saturday at 4 p.m. on East Colorado Avenue between Alder and Willow Streets. That gig is my going away party, as I leave Sunday morning to go to Red Rocks to see Dark Star Orchestra perform the Grateful Dead’s Sept. 8, 1983, set. I figured seeing a Grateful Dead show at Red Rocks would be an appropriate last day for me to spend as a Colorado resident.
To the joy of some and the dismay of others, I will still be writing columns for The Watch as a guest contributor, and I hope and pray I will still be one step ahead of the blues, because it beats the alternative.
As I look back on Telluride 2.0, I am incredibly grateful that I got to spend this time as a resident, to experience the town as a husband and father, to meet so many cool people and soak in the beauty of the area. I can’t help but think, “it’s all a dream I dreamed one afternoon long ago.”
What a lovely place to dream your life and live your dreams.