By JOHN LLEHNDORFF
(2:05 p.m 7/31/16 Lyons CO/ overcast with a chance a brilliance) – Saturday’s sets at the 44th annual Rockygrass Festival featured the return of many of the leading lights of this progressive bluegrass tradition fostered at Rockygrass over the past two decades.
I first talked to Mark O’Connor backstage at Telluride when he was 17 and saw him become the fiddler of the new acoustic stars. He, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas formed a band in Colorado. They couldn’t call it “Telluride” so they called it Strength in Numbers which produced one brilliant album of original instrumental music before going on to other configurations.
Last night, Mark O’Connor came back to Rockygrass with his family band and wowed the crowed on fiddle, of course, but also the mandolin and guitar which he showcased in the David Grisman Quintet and Strength. Still such a powerful player. Fleck followed in a duo with Abagail Washurn, the first family of American banjo, concluding with a rare appearance by young Juno Fleck as a clogdancer. See Photo Above. Sam Bush and his band delivered a typically tight set including a barn-burning finish playing a steel slide mandolin.
For the day’s finale every picker at Planet Bluegrass came out for one last solo with several generations together including the old guys – Bush, Fleck, O’Connor and Darol Anger – and the youngsters in a strong showing.