Membes of Cross Canadian Ragweed are, from left, Grady Cross, Randy Ragsdale, Cody Canada and Jeremy Plato. The band is performing at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Music tent during the MusicFest at Steamboat.

Membes of Cross Canadian Ragweed are, from left, Grady Cross, Randy Ragsdale, Cody Canada and Jeremy Plato. The band is performing at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Music tent during the MusicFest at Steamboat.

Sold-out MusicFest sticks to roots

Six days of Americana give a few opportunities for local concertgoers

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If you go

(Concerts not included in the festival pass)

Cross Canadian Ragweed, with Reckless Kelly

7 p.m. Saturday

Steamboat Music tent (mountain area)

$20

1-800-922-2722, or visit www.steamboat.com...

Jack Ingram, with Wade Bowen

1:30 p.m. Sunday

Gondola Square

Free

1-800-922-2722, or visit www.steamboat.com...

Key points

The MusicFest at Steamboat

Saturday through Thursday

Steamboat Music tent (mountain area), Steamboat Mountain Theater (Ski Time Square), Gondola Square

Festival passes are sold out; some concerts are open to the public or individually ticketed

1-800-922-2722, or go to www.steamboat.com...>

— When Texas music festival promoter John Dickson presented shows at the Steamboat Mountain Theater for the first time last year, he got hooked on the space.

While he was setting up a performance for The MusicFest at Steamboat, Dickson said he was taken by the sets, which theater owner Kelly Anzalone had put onstage.

"I was admiring one of his theatrical sets, and asked him who builds those," Dickson said. "He said, 'Well, I do,' and we said we really wanted to do that kind of set for our festival."

This year, Dickson decided to take advantage of that visual element, and has put together a series of intimate, artists-only acoustic jam sessions for the Mountain Theater.

"All the shows at the theater are going to kind of be like a little jam session, an intimate-type deal that's not a structured, standard show that people might normally see," Dickson said. "We just try and enhance the feeling of the shows and every year we add things like that."

Anzalone said he was looking forward to putting on an event that is completely different from what the festival has done in recent years.

"I think we're going to get some pretty talented people," Anzalone said. "The set is like an old hunter's cabin. John's (Dickson) bringing a bunch of dead animals, and then there are some fabulous still images of musicians we're using in the background."

In its eighth consecutive year, MusicFest will feature 30 notable acts from roots, rock and country, such as Robert Earl Keen, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, Asleep at the Wheel, Bill Nershi and Band of Heathens.

Anzalone said he's looking forward to hosting and mixing sound for any of those musicians. He's also looking forward to the financial boost those sold-out shows could give his theater's bar.

"As a business owner this will be one of the best weeks all year," he said. "We'll be sold out every night with good music."

The festival, which runs from Saturday to Thursday, has been sold out for months, Dickson said. Concerts are packaged together with lodging for out-of-town festival-goers.

Most MusicFest performances will be held in the new Steamboat Music Tent, which holds about 2,500 people.

There are some exceptions to the festival-passes-only rule, Dickson said, including a Saturday night show by Cross Canadian Ragweed and Reckless Kelly and a free Sunday afternoon concert by Jack Ingram and Wade Bowen.

Both events are targeted toward locals. Tickets for the Saturday night concert were going fast this week, with about 90 left Wednesday evening.

Dickson said he also made some festival passes available for sale at All That Jazz, which he said he thought lasted a few days before selling out.

As the festival has grown - with more Colorado ticket buyers than ever - Dickson said he has tried to keep the music to its roots.

"We're trying to keep with tradition and keep this festival grounded, keeping it in intimate and unique type settings and performances," he said.

"It's a really relaxed atmosphere for the musicians and you can tell they're having a good time."

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