When Andrew McConathy founded the YarmonyGrass Festival in 2006, he originally intended to hold the event on his parents’ ranch, Yarmony Creek Ranch, just north of State Bridge in Bond. The insurance company and McConathy’s parents advised him otherwise, and although the inaugural festival was held at State Bridge instead, the “Yarmony” name stayed the same.
“The word ‘Yarmony’ comes from a Ute indian chief named Yarmony who lived in the Yampa Valley,” McConathy said. “Yarmony Mountain is out there, and Yarmony rapid, too — it just makes sense that the area is the home of YarmonyGrass, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Since 2006, the festival has tried on different “homes,” including Copper Mountain in 2008 after State Bridge Lodge burned to the ground in 2007. The resort venue didn’t seem to fit as well as the riverside did.
“After Copper, we really evaluated things because the nature of the event was meant to be a rustic, riverside event, with no cell service,” he said. “Then all of a sudden we were in a resort environment with a ton of amenities everywhere — hot tubs, hotel rooms, condos, restaurants, bars — and the whole thing really changed. At that point, we decided to try it out at Rancho for the first time in 2009.”
Over the past few years, the festival venue has gone back and forth between State Bridge and Rancho Del Rio, two venues on the Colorado River, just several dirt-road or river miles apart. McConathy, who grew up in the Vail Valley, said he loves the amphitheater at State Bridge, but the convenience of on-site accommodations at Rancho aligns with his overall vision.
“Having to provide shuttles to the venue and back changes the experience that we really wanted to provide people out there,” he said. “The festival is family oriented and communal, with a ton of music, but people are going out there for the experience, so they can sit down and enjoy the music from their campsite if they want to, or they can float to State Bridge if they want to; everyone has more control of their experience at Rancho, so we really enjoy it up there.”
And it’s still just a few miles from Yarmony Creek Ranch (as the crow flies), McConathy said. So it seems the gypsy festival may have finally found a home.
SOUNDS OF STRINGS
The annual festival is back this weekend, Friday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 17, featuring bluegrass greats such as the Shockenaw Mountain Boys, with members of Railroad Earth — including Tim Carbone, John Skehan, Andy Goessling and Johnny Grub — taking the stage on Saturday night.
Wicked Messenger, with Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufman of Yonder Mountain String Band, plays on Friday evening, and a sure highlight will be The Motet’s late-night Friday funk set.
Multi-instrumentalist sisters Rising Appalachia play on Friday and Saturday, and Keller Williams’ trademark sound known as Grateful Grass will be on stage on Saturday night, featuring mandolinist Jeff Austin and Keith Moseley, of The String Cheese Incident.
“Grateful Grass is this novelty bluegrass; a Grateful Dead song project,” Williams said. “Yarmony is one of the few times when we will have all three original members of the concept, so I am looking forward to that connection again — where it all started — as well as seeing all the others players I know who are going to be there.”
Colorado-based funk band The Motet just released its seventh album, “The Motet,” in March.
“After a long time of playing lots of different kinds of music, with years of different lineups, we finally have a band again, and we are reclaiming our name and reclaiming our sounds,” said Jans Ingber, of The Motet.
Although Ingber said the band doesn’t usually play at a lot of “string-based music festivals,” he said they are excited to come back close to home.
“We are just super psyched to get back to that part of the world,” he said, “because we are not playing at State Bridge this year, so to do an outdoor Colorado festival for fans is something we are very excited about.”
Colorado is a great match for the music, Ingber said, and suggested that festivalgoers “bring their dancing shoes.”
“It doesn’t matter what genre you are talking about,” he said. “People like to throw down and celebrate life, especially in Colorado, and I think that’s why The Motet and Colorado are such a great match.”
FROM DRUMMING TO DANCE
YarmonyGrass will host the Gravity Lounge this year, an interactive performance space for more than a dozen diverse workshops. Workshop experiences will be varied and include yoga, drumming, song, dance, permaculture, meditation and more.
“I kind of just drew from all the musical power that I really respected and appreciated growing up,” said McConathy, who is also the songwriter, vocalist and acoustic guitar player for Drunken Hearts, playing at the festival on Saturday. “I have always tried to put together a diverse musical landscape that a lot of people, and families, can enjoy, so we bring in a little bit of everything.”
Kids 12 and younger are free, and there is a family zone available for camping. Camping is encouraged and available on site; the cost is included with the purchase of a festival ticket.