It’s Rocky Mountain Folks Festival time

Better get that Rocky Mountain Folks Festival streak going

Susan France

We all have ways of measuring the passage of time. We watch our kids grow up — their way-too-fast and amazing transformation into adults reminding us that our ride is short, so we better make the most of it.

We break our lives into chapters based on things like what job we were at, who we were living with or dating, or what state we were in.

And if you are really lucky, like me, you get to measure your years with the musical yardstick that is the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival; “Wasn’t that the year Arlo Guthrie closed it out or was that the year Nanci Griffith reunited with Lucy Kaplanski for that great set?” You get the drift.

No kidding, after making it to more than 20 of these things, which my family and friends from all over the country use as an excuse for an annual reunion of sorts, I really do think of it as a marker just like those ascending height marks on the closet door frame that tell me where the top of my kid’s head use to be.

Families and friends chillin' by the River at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colorado.
Families and friends chillin’ by the River at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colorado. Ellen Ramsey

Every year I’m reminded how fortunate all of us are to have such a world-class event in our backyard.
As I was scanning this year’s lineup, it struck me what a diverse festival this really is.

It’s hard to imagine that a single stage in Lyons, Colorado, is going to be playing host to the likes of international superstars Passenger (see BW interview), Conor Oberst, The Decemberists, and Andrew Bird (see BW interview).

Then there’s Dougie MacLean, the environmentally astute Scottish singer/songwriter who will not let you remain seated or quiet. I love his shows.

I’m still not sure what to expect when the critically acclaimed Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha hits their first note. We were going to interview them but it’s really hard to get your hands on a Ukrainian translator in Boulder County these days.

With this year’s lineup you can catch genuine music legends along with amazing relative newcomers who will blow away whatever expectations you may have.

Now those are happy people.
Now those are happy people. Ellen Ramsey

Newcomer Mavis Staples hits the stage Saturday night for what will no doubt be a memorable performance. OK, I’m kidding about the newcomer part, but this honest to goodness music legend is actually playing in Lyons and you’d have to be Donald-Trump-kinda crazy to even consider missing it.

On Friday, Lucinda Williams will be performing. If you don’t know her music, all I can say is grab a beer, sit down and get ready to have your life changed for the better, forever. Unless you’d rather dance, in which case do that. She’s a writer’s writer. Every time I hear her I want to head out on a cross-country road trip all alone in the middle of an empty landscape. I have no higher compliment than that.

As for real up and comers, you’ll be remembering the name Parker Millsap (see BW interview). Not only does he have a great voice, he’ll be one of the only people in Lyons I can sit down with and talk about the view out over the Canadian River off the backside of Red Hill in Purcell, Oklahoma. That’s because both of us were born there. And I can personally attest that view stays with you for life and has a way of making it into your writing when you least expect it.

The list and the talent goes on and on, Kathy Matea, Cheryl Wheeler, the incredible energy and vocal work of The Lone Bellow and much more.

We hope you enjoy this special Folks Festival section we’ve put together this year. We spoke with a number of the interesting people who will be performing.

This is truly one of the best top-to-bottom lineups I’ve seen at this or any other festival. So if you’ve been waiting to start your own streak of Folks Fest attendance, this is definitely the year to get it going. Life’s too short to miss out. Those lines on the door frame never come back down.


Folks Festival Schedule

August 19, 2016
• 10:00 a.m. — Gates Open
• 10:30 – 12:30 p.m. — Songwriter Showcase
• 12:45 – 1:45 p.m. — Quiles & Cloud
• 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. — Cheryl Wheeler
• 3:45 – 5:00 p.m. — David Wax Museum
• 5:30 – 6:45 p.m. — Passenger
• 7:15 – 8:30 p.m. — Lucinda Williams
• 9:00 – 10:30 p.m. — Andrew Bird

August 20, 2016
• 10:00 a.m. — Gates Open
• 11:00 – Noon — Ben Shannon
• 12:15 – 1:30 p.m. — Freddy & Francine
• 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. — Parker Millsap
• 3:45 – 5:00 p.m. — Kathy Mattea
• 5:30 – 6:45 p.m. — Darrel Scott
• 7:15 – 8:30 p.m. — Mavis Staples
• 9:00 – 10:30 p.m. — Conor Oberst

August 21, 2016
• 10:00 a.m. — Gates Open
• 11:00 – Noon — My Bubba
• 12:15 – 1:15 p.m. — The Accidentals
• 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. — Darlingside
• 3:15 – 4:30 p.m. — DakhaBrakha
• 5:00 – 6:15 p.m. — The Lone Bellow
• 6:45 – 8:00pm — Dougie MacLean
• 8:30 – 10:00 p.m. — The Decemberists