Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Sam Bush may be the unofficial mayor of Telluride and prince of that town’s bluegrass festival, but he’s the grand poobah of March Steam-Grass in Ski Town USA.
I’ve lost track of how many times Bush has plucked his mandolin and performed his own brand of bluegrass during an outdoor show in Steamboat Springs, but it’s always good to see him return with his ever-changing cast of string wizards.
Does the Sam Bush Band ever perform within four walls? Not if it can help it.
“Last night, we played an outdoor show in Vail,” he told the blissful crowd outside the Bear River Bar & Grill in Gondola Square on Friday. “I think we’re just going to quit playing indoors.”
Oops — the rest of the band just walked off stage. Not really. But it did take the Sam Bush Band a little time to warm up to its usual high simmer Friday, and even longer for the banjo and guitar to adjust to the temperature and altitude — there was much tuning of B strings during the first four numbers.
“Hey, the instruments are used to ground zero level in Tennessee,” Bush said by way of an apology. Then he announced, “It’s time to ride that bluegrass train” and crooned, “I’m goin’ down to Louisville to see my pony ride,” and everything was golden in the land of Steam-Grass.
“This is a perfect day,” my buddy Ray observed. “Sunshine, happy people and great music.”
Little Olivia Rossi was so moved by the music, she perched on her daddy Phillip’s shoulders and mussed with his hairdo in time to the bluegrass.
There were some old hippies in the audience who could recall when the Telluride Bluegrass Festival was just a quiet little homegrown music festival and Sam Bush played with a group called New Grass Revival.
Bush evoked those days in Steamboat on Friday, leading the band into the New Grass classic “Whisper My Name,” which he re-cut on his newest album, “Circle Around Me.”
Then he treated his audience to the title track, which, he explained, is about achieving middle age or better in a mountain town.
“High in Telluride, up on Bridal Veil Falls,” he sang, “Hey, hey, how did we get this far?
“Holding tight to the tail of a shooting star.”
Hang on tight, everybody, Sam Bush still is performing in the great outdoors.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail tross@SteamboatToday.com