From frozen phalanges, to crashing on the floor like sardines, to uncontrollable laughter with some of the best friends you’ll ever make, Winter Wondergrass festival sure does attract a certain type of person, the ones who are willing to battle the cold and rally in the name of live music. If I learned anything at the fest, it’s that the combination of snow, mountains, and bluegrass create the best situational cocktail for bringing people together. As if the snowy mountains of Steamboat, Colorado didn’t do that already, add a little bluegrass and some Dale’s Pale Ale to the mix and there you have it: a wonderful freakin’ time.
The festival kicked off beautifully with Liver Down the River, who played just one note before and snow began! After being thoroughly pumped up by their funkadeligrass music, the crowd was serenaded by Trout Steak Revival who kept the music flowing into the evening, when Liver played yet another rockin’ set. The Wooks kept the energy alive for the Brad Parsons Band to wrap up the Wondergrass pre-party. As the night wound to a close, festies retreated to a set downtown by Colorado jamtronica up-and-comers Evanoff, who delivered a high energy dance party to cap the night off right.
Friday immediately started off with party vibes as we festival-goers made our way downtown for a delicious breakfast at Johnny B Good’s Diner, followed by smooth liquors at Steamboat Whiskey Company. After getting properly buzzed up, we made our way into the festival grounds where we were greeted by the Jon Stickley Trio, who had been joined on stage by some all-star special guests.
After a beautiful Steamboat sunset, Elephant Revival took the stage for an emotionally evocative set, playing whilst fireworks were shot from the ski hill above. For me, this remains one of the most perfect and beautiful moments of the weekend, and since the band are going on hiatus in just a few short months, it was even more special.
Just when it seemed the night couldn’t get more beautiful, Yonder Mountain took the stage, and so did the snow! After their heartfelt set, I made my way to the the gondolas and took a ride up to the top with some beautiful humans to catch the Grantful Dead Revue, where Tyler Grant had more than a few things to say with his fretboard. I think everyone agreed there was no better way to finish off the night than gettin’ down to some Dead tunes.
Saturday began with the infamous Bacon Jam, which took place in an absolutely gorgeous house on top of a mountain. Upon arrival guests were greeted by snowballs drunkenly lobbed from a hot tub. After entering the house I found great vibes, unlimited bacon, and WonderGrass all-stars pickin’ up a storm! After the Bacon Jam and a much needed nap, I made my way to the festival to see The Lil Smokies kick the afternoon into high gear. The Smokies were followed by Fruition, who had a perfect sunset set that sent the crowds partying into the night.
Next to the stage was the amazing Greensky Bluegrass, who played one of the most captivating sets of the weekend. As they plucked their last notes, I headed over to the Grand Ballroom, where Leftover Salmon, who were warming up for their killer Sunday night set. Paul Hoffman joined in midway through the set and the night went on ‘til morning.
Quick-trigger new kid on the block Billy Strings kicked off the mainstage Sunday afternoon with something to say. With outstanding vocals and masterfully edgy guitar skills, Billy brought the energy the crowd needed to power through the last day of this incredible festival.
As day turned to night, the people of Wondergrass reached a new level of love, intoxication, and anticipation as Leftover Salmon geared up to close out the fest. I have to give it to Leftover Salmon- out of all the amazing music I had the pleasure of experiencing this weekend, their capstone performance takes the cake as my most enjoyed set of Winter Wondergrass.
WWG was sold-out this year, proving people seem to really love Bluegrass in the winter. If you’re ready for round two, get your tickets to Winter WonderGrass in Squaw Valley, CA happening April 6th-8th here!
All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.