Colorado sure loves its bluegrass festivals—RockyGrass, Winter Wondergrass, Telluride Bluegrass Festival—but none are quite as intimate or isolated as YarmonyGrass. Celebrating its 11th year this past weekend, the festival is nestled on the banks of the Colorado River at Rancho Del Rio surrounded by mountains, including its namesake Mt. Yarmony to the West. It is hard to find a more beautiful setting for a music festival.During the days, the river was filled with swimmers and a laughable fleet of inflatable vessels. Participants relied on anything they could muster to float the winding stretch of flat water connecting Rancho Del Rio and State Bridge four miles downstream–paddle boards, duckies, mattresses, inner tubes, rainbow unicorns, you name it. Back for the first time in five years, a “floating stage” hit the river midday Saturday with the aptly named Whitewater Ramble playing a set on rafts while a long line of festival-goers floated along for the ride. During the nights, a non-stop flow of music poured over the grounds from two stages. The Main Stage faced an open lawn and the intimate Saloon Stage was on a deck that featured half-hour tweener sets from up-in-comers on the bluegrass scene including the Kitchen Dwellers, Caribou Mountain Collective, and Whiskey Tango.The Jeff Austin Band headlined Friday, drawing the largest crowd of the weekend. In his usual quirky nature, Austin announced how excited he was to be “by all the freakers by the river” and continued to play a dark, experimental set with his four-piece band. To the pleasure of many longtime fans of Yonder Mountain String Band, Austin dove into nostalgic material he has been reluctant to play since his departure from the band, including “Dawn’s Early Light” and an encore of “Raleigh and Spencer” with a Roosevelt Collier sit-in. Though Austin’s choppy mandolin certainly led, it was virtuosic banjo player Ryan Cavanaugh that stole the show every time his number was called for a solo. Early Main Stage performances Saturday included an evening set from the Grateful Dead cover specialists Uptown Toodeloo String Band and Andy Hall’s Joint Set, dobro extraordinaire from the Infamous Stringdusters. Hall’s set began with a beautiful rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” with Roosevelt Collier (the two announced they will be releasing an album together) before bringing a full bluegrass band to the stage to work through a handful of unique covers. But Saturday night belonged to the Drunken Hearts. Bringing a welcomed change of pace from the traditional bluegrass prominent for much of the weekend, their Main Stage set opened up into a number of rocking jams (Steve Miller Band’s “Swingtown” may have been the best) that let the chops of lead guitarist Rob Eaton Jr, bassist Jon McCartan, and drummer Alex Johnson truly shine.Even after playing the set of the weekend, or maybe because of it, the Hearts were enlisted as the primary backing band for Roosevelt Collier’s Colorado Get Down. Bringing out almost a dozen guest musicians before he was done, the pedal steel guitar specialist Collier continued on a funkier path that included an extended rendition of Billy Cobham’s fusion classic “Stratus” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”If you were to nominate the MVP of this year’s festival, it would certainly have to be former Leftover Salmon keyboardist Bill McKay. It seemed as though his rig never left the main stage and his signature brand of honky-tonk, rag-tag playing shined on sit-ins in with Coral Creek, the Drunken Hearts, Uptown Toodeloo String Band, Andy Hall, and more.Over a decade after its inception, YarmonyGrass is now one of the state’s premier musical destinations. With breathtaking scenery and tight-knit community of loyal patrons, it sure looks like it’s going to stay that way.Check out more photos from the event, courtesy of Elliot Siff Photography (Facebook)!
‘People need hope’ Earlier in the day, Keir Starmer, the new leader of the opposition Labor Party, said it would support any government decision to extend the social distancing orders. However, Starmer, who was elected Labor leader earlier this month, called on ministers to explain within a week their plan for easing restrictions, both to reassure the public and to give lawmakers time scrutinize it properly.”People need hope, they need to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Starmer told BBC radio.In a letter to the government, he also warned: “We cannot repeat mistakes that have already been made on testing and access to protective equipment.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has been criticized for not introducing the lockdown earlier, and for failing to properly prepare for the outbreak.Medical staff and care homes still complain of a lack of protective equipment, while testing for coronavirus remains limited.The government has promised 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, but Starmer noted it was only at about 15,000 a day now.”If [mass] testing is part of the answer, then we now know that plans need to be in place to ramp up testing,” he said.Starmer formally set out his request in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputizing for Johnson while the prime minister recovers from his own bout of coronavirus.”This lockdown is not affecting people equally. In fact, it has exacerbated existing inequalities in our country,” Starmer wrote.”A family living in an overcrowded flat will have particular challenges. And it is hard to imagine the daily horror of someone trapped in a home with his or her abuser.”He asked Raab to set out clearly what criteria the government will use to inform the decision on how to ease the lockdown, and which economic sectors might be first to benefit.However, a government source said it was too soon, saying: “Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home.” England’s chief medical officer said on Wednesday he believed the UK coronavirus death toll, which now stands at almost 13,000, was approaching its peak but warned of grim figures to follow in the next 24 hours.”On the issue of the peak, our view is that it is probably reaching the peak overall and that is what the flattening shows,” Professor Chris Whitty said at a daily government crisis news briefing when asked about the number of people losing their life.But any optimism was tinged with the prospect that high fatality numbers “will continue”, Whitty said, confirming Britain as one of the worst affected countries by the global pandemic. Whitty’s comments came ahead of a government decision, expected on Thursday, to extend the lockdown and renew a stay-at-home order imposed three weeks ago to stem the spread of COVID-19.The government has come under increasing pressure in recent days over the death toll as charities and others said it did not reveal the true scale of the number of fatalities in British care homes.Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday, at the same briefing, that people with relatives in care homes would be given the “right to say goodbye” if they were gravely ill with the virus. “I think it’s important, and I am saying this because new data will come out presumably tomorrow. My expectation would be that the number of deaths may well go up.”Figures announced by the health ministry earlier Wednesday showed that 12,868 people in hospital have died from the coronavirus, a rise of 761 on the previous day. That was slightly down from the 778 fatalities recorded on Tuesday but noticeably lower than a high of 980 deaths declared last Friday.The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK has now reached 98,476. Topics :