Stan Jam 2018 Review: Bluegrass Extravaganza!
On a cold, isolated hilltop in the mountains of Colorado there resides an historic hotel containing many secrets. To this remote locale once embarked a man, his son and his wife on an adventure that would forever change their lives. What started off innocently quickly elevated into a story of terror, horror and death.
On another hilltop, not quite as cold and not at all isolated but also in the mountains of Colorado, there resides another historic hotel. To this beautiful locale embarked hundreds of music fans who soon discovered that this hotel is actually one of Colorado’s newest and best music music venues.
Heeeeeere’s ……. Stan Jam!
Put on by Stanley Live, Stan Jam is the latest in what is hopefully to become an ongoing theme at the Historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado: Live music enjoyed in a beautiful and iconic setting, with all of the comforts you could imagine right on site.
Stan Jam guests began arriving for the 2-day festival on Friday afternoon. It was a gorgeous sunny Colorado afternoon, and the drive to Estes Park was beautiful. After checking into their accommodations, most of the early arrivals made their way to the Cascades Whiskey Bar for the Welcome Reception and the first music of the weekend.
The Whiskey Bar sets the mood for a bluegrass event at the Stanley perfectly. Boasting Colorado’s largest whiskey collection, the Whiskey Bar immediately gives one a mood of warmth and nostalgia.This place feels classic and classy.
As more and more guests arrived, and the sun began to fade, the first of the weekend’s snow began to flurry, and we knew we were in for an epic Colorado weekend!
Between the welcome reception and the beginning of the Concert Hall festivities, the snow had begun to fall in earnest. Several fresh inches had already accumulated by the time we entered the hall, but the precipitation didn’t dampen any spirits. Far from it, as the majority of guests had only to traverse a few yards outdoors from their hotel rooms to the main stage.The result was an electric excitement as festy goers filed in to kick things off with Rapidgrass.
We’ve come to expect nothing but an energetic throw-down from Colorado’s own unique ensemble, and Rapidgrass did not disappoint at Stan Jam. The Concert Hall was rocking as Stan Jam fell into full swing.
After Rapidgrass’ lively performance, folks either stuck around in the concert hall or made the incredibly short journey in the snow back to the Whiskey Bar for a time-out before the evening’s headliner, The Jeff Austin Band.
The Jeff Austin Band has been on fire with a number of Colorado engagements. Fans of Jeff Austin could not be happier with the song selection he has been featuring lately, dusting off some old favorites that many fans have not heard live in far too long. His newest band is as tight as a tick, and are all featured prominently throughout the show.
As the Jeff Austin Band had the crowd swirling like the many snowflakes right outside, most of us could not help our amazement at seeing such an incredible show in such an intimate setting.
As the Stan Jam Concert Hall winded down, many of the crowd were not yet quite ready to put to rest all of the accumulated energy of the evening thus far.
The snow continued to pile on, and we were all high on bluegrass music, so the natural response was to return to the Whiskey Bar. By the time we got to the Whiskey Bar, to our delight, there was already a pick in full swing.
See, the magic of the Stanley Hotel extends far beyond the stage…
Just like the doomed family from that hilltop Colorado hotel of lore, the artists of Stan Jam are also trapped, in a way. No – no one is to be murdered with an axe or frozen in a maze, but when everyone in attendance, musicians included, is staying right upstairs, there’s always bound to be a party somewhere!
On Friday evening, it was in the Whiskey Bar and adjacent lobby where official performers and pickin’ fans alike joined in for more music to round off what was an epic first day for the first Stan Jam!
As morning dawned on the Historic Stanley Hotel, festival goers who had spent the evening or had arrived early on Saturday were treated to a variety of activities before the music kicked off in the Concert Hall.
There was Vinyasa Yoga with music by K.C. Groves in the newly erected Stanley Pavilion. This spot aims to be the next iconic live music space in Colorado, and the morning yoga class treated attendees to a sneak peek of the beautiful new music hall.
For those who would rather get down with the Dawg than do the downward dog, there was a Bluegrass Workshop hosted by Rapidgrass in the Billiard Room. This was followed by a group pick and jam that brought us right up to the start of the main festivities in the concert hall.
The Concert Hall began to fill in as folks showed up for the first act of the day, Wood Belly. As Wood Belly delivered a set filled with traditional bluegrass and their own carefully crafted originals, the room began to come alive again for the day and the get-down that would ensue for hours began in earnest. The music continued with heartfelt sets from The Lonesome Days and K.C. and The Side Hustlers.
As the day progressed, it quickly became apparent that Saturday would play host to a much larger crowd than Friday evening. The Stanley Concert Hall was filling up, but the intimate room was always cozy and easy to navigate. The bartenders were serving drinks quickly and happily, and the facilities were never hard to reach. Basically, it was an all-around comfortable experience for everyone involved!
“Comfortable” is the word that comes to mind most often for an event at the Stanley Hotel.Everything is easily within reach. There are no pushy crowds for the bar or the bathroom. There are plenty of coat racks to support as many layers as you may need to wear, and the staff is welcoming and friendly, happy to join in the fun with everyone else.
And the fun kicked into high gear after the dinner break when Chain Station took the stage…
Chain Station is a good time. There’s no better way to describe them.
Sure, they are extremely talented pickers who can hang with anyone on the scene, and sure they write original tunes that easily get stuck in your head and sound like old favorites. They also have a wide array of covers that range from classics to ‘I-can’t-believe-they’re-playing-this’! But the overall feeling of this band, on and off of the stage is a good, fun time!
Their Saturday set at the Stanley was no exception, and when they finished up the crowd was amped and ready to go!
A palpable excitement could be felt throughout the room for what was to come next. It was almost unbelievable to many, that such an icon of the industry, a living legend and his band of best-in-the-land pickers was about to grace the stage. THIS stage, in this intimate setting, with this amazing sound system and this amazing crowd. It seemed unreal, but it wasn’t!
The Del McCoury Band took the stage, and the place erupted!
Del and his boys delivered as only they can. Playing through their array of classic bluegrass tunes that we all have come to know and love, Del was classic Del!
He joked with the band and the crowd, took requests, forgot the requests and played what he wanted – and put on a show that will ring in the Concert Hall for ages so that the ghosts who live there will have a reason to dance.
Every soul in the room was elated. “My face hurts from smiling so much” was overheard on more than one occasion. We all sang together when Del requested, and we sounded pretty damn good! The entire room danced and reveled in our good fortune to be able to be a part of such a special, intimate night of music.
And it didn’t end there!
The final act of the festival was billed as “After Party with Surprise Guest.” However, it was no surprise to those in attendance that we were to be treated to yet another show by the Jeff Austin Band.
Jeff and his talented foursome threw down yet again, and the foot stomping of the Stanley Concert Hall surely echoed off of the peaks of Rocky Mountain Park!
Whew. What a day of music!But it still didn’t end there…
Just like the previous evening, there was too much energy created to extinguish it when the show came to a close. Folks milled around a bit between the Whiskey Bar and the hotel lobby, catching their breath and regrouping.
It wasn’t long, however, before another pick broke out, this time in the Billiards Room.
A dozen or so musicians sat in a circle and kept the party going well into the wee hours. It was casual, with laughter and chatter between songs, the lines blurred between performers and fans as they often are in many a good bluegrass pick.
Most of the chatter was on the events of the past 36 hours or so, and what a magical weekend it was.
Stan Jam certainly lived up to it’s name, as the Jam kept going and going…
Here’s to many more!