Hillbenders Win Telluride Bluegrass Band Contest

IMG_2679 Over time, there are certain facts of life around Town Park Telluride Festivarians have come to expect, like afternoon showers.

Park your attitude at the front gate. Noblesse oblige does not get you very far – certainly not back stage. 

Days at Telluride Bluegrass begin with the running of the tarp crack of 9 or 10 a.m.
(Diehards camp out all night for house seats.)

The King of Telluride, Sam Bush, will make regular appearances, often attended by his popular court– Bela, Jerry, Edgar, Bryan, Tim, John, Emmylou.

Festivarians are bright green. Waste not, recycling and composting bins are everywhere.

And if you missed the play offs, Telluride Bluegrass band contest winners return the following year for an encore, The Industry in hot pursuit.

IMG_2675 The Dixie Chicks came back. So did Nickel Creek, Spring Creek, Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Bands. Greensky Bluegrass's set was a weekend highlight. Add this year's winners to the list, five abundantly talented young men from Springfield, Missouri who call themselves The Hillbenders.
(And yes, the first vowel is correct.)

The Hillbenders are Nolan Lawrence on mandolin, Mark Cassidy on banjo, Gary Rea on bass, Jimmy Rea on guitar, and Chad Graves on dobro. The seasoned bluegrass quintet found the Telluride Bluegrass contest on the Internet, paid the change to enter, $75, and the gas to get to town.

The rules of the Telluride band contest require each group, this year a field of ten, to perform one instrumental, one fast vocal, and one slow vocal. The judges, including a Grammy-winning studio engineer, gave The Hillbenders the nod based on material selection (30%, taste, difficulty, authenticity/originality); instrumental performance (30%, ability of soloists and overall instrumental blend); vocal performance (30%, lead and harmony); and stage presence (10%).

The Hillbenders left Telluride Bluegrass reluctantly, happy but too broke, despite the $750 cash prize,  to pay for one more night in their condo – and too wet to think about camping out. Next year boys, bet on a suite at Capella.

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Susan Viebrock

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