Fans of American roots music needn't wait until the summer for their next festival. Keystone's Winter Bluegrass Festival will feature an array of bluegrass (in the loosest sense of the word) and a community jam this weekend at Warren Station Center for the Arts.
This is Keystone's second annual festival, presented by the Dercum Center, a local nonprofit that brings artists, lecturers and performers to Summit County. This year's event will feature four Colorado bands (one from Summit County) over two nights. Each night will open with a community jam.
For Ben Brewer and his band, The Pine Beatles, this weekend's festival is more than just any concert. These days, the band - that came together unexpectedly one day during a casual jam session - is typically booked with weddings and private parties and rarely has an opportunity to play for the public.
"It's a lot of fun for us to play a festival on a stage for the public," Brewer said. "That doesn't happen very often - we can't wait. I think it's also a cool concept: Ski all day and then come to this cool concert. It makes for a really fun weekend."
The band has been working on a new set, with new material, especially for this weekend's show.
"If people out there have seen us play before, I guarantee they'll see us play songs we've never played before," Brewer said.
The Pine Beatles are scheduled to open for the Haunted Windchimes, of Pueblo, Saturday.
"I wouldn't call ourselves a bluegrass band per se, though we do draw inspiration from that," said Haunted Windchimes band leader, Inaiah Lujan. "When I think of bluegrass, I think of people wailing on banjos and mandolins. First and foremost, we're songwriters."
Tonight, the Mossgatherers, of Denver, open for the Lyons-based band Taarka.
"We hope in this concert, as in all we do as Mossgatherers, to positively scandalize and honor the octogenarian Norwegian-sweater set, mightily impress the goat-bearded lift-operator folkie purists, and rock the Sonic Youth/Beck/Lady Gaga kiddie fans with a one-string ukelele, a Ramones cover and a sparkly bluegrasstastic dream," said Erik Tieze, of the Mossgatherers.
Of all the bands, perhaps tonight's headliner Taarka fits the bluegrass mold the best. Taarka's music "blends bluegrass instrumentation and energy with gypsy jazz, Celtic, soul, classical and pop music," said Enion Pelta-Tiller, the band's fiddler. "A friend recently described us as sounding like a Colorado River in early spring, when the ice is just starting to melt and you can hear and see the water flowing underneath sheets of ice."
Two nights, four bands and two community jam sessions makes for a diverse mix of bluegrass sure to please die-hard fans and even the casual passerby.
"For me, it just kind of feels like going and playing in someone's living room," Lujan said of the ambiance of Keystone's Winter Bluegrass Festival. "It definitely feels warm and homey."