The loose, bluegrass festival campground jam was a major contributor to guitar player Tyler Grant’s musical education.
It’s a common festival occurrence: Go to any festival, spend time digging who is on the stage, but along with the traditional concert setting you spend upward of eight to nine hours a night picking with colleagues, friends and strangers, usually until the sun comes up, security is called or both. It’s part of bluegrass boot camp, a major component to learning how to play with others, a musical method that will ultimately aid your performance in your full-time band, or a band put together for a series of one-off performances.
The latter descriptor could be applied to Leftover Dust Farm, a band Grant will be part of at next weekend’s bluegrass festival at Tico Time Resort outside Aztec. The band will feature Grant, whose full-time outfit is Grant Farm, along with bass player Greg Garrison and drummer Alwyn Robinson of Leftover Salmon, and dobro player Andy Hall from The Infamous Stringdusters.
The festival, which kicks off on Thursday, will also feature Woodbelly, Mean Mary, Buffalo Commons, Stillhouse Junkies, Liver Down the River, Robin Davis Duo and many more. The Leftover Dust Farm set is April 30, and like any festival, bluegrass boot camp will be in session.
“When I was growing up, it would be somebody taking piano lessons or guitar lessons and you learn to play whatever piece you’re working on. So then you go to the bluegrass scene, and take the same level of player who is in the bluegrass scene, they mostly have had experience getting together with others in the campground or at the festival, and this immersion of the music where you’re communicating in real time, and jamming and playing by ear, and picking up songs really quickly once you get the formula,” Grant said. “So anyone who grew up playing bluegrass music or had any experience as a beginner- or intermediate-style player and getting into bluegrass, it certainly gives you this ability to jam and play by ear and react to a live musical setting. It’s definitely an advantage that anyone that learns the traditional way, like piano lessons or guitar lessons, is missing out on. It’s certainly a big part of the bluegrass education.”
That education has certainly lent itself to his role in Leftover Dust Farm. These dudes don’t regularly play with each other, but they’ve all of had enough campground experience, and have spent time in the close-knit Colorado music community that they are well-versed in the musical language and have played informally with each other at festivals or back stages around the state. This particular lineup was put together by Garrison, and it’s a band Grant is stoked to be a part of.
“It’s a sweet lineup. Playing with Greg is like riding in a Cadillac – it’s always smooth, easy, he lays down the groove. Just such a great bass player, great harmony singer and a good friend,” Grant said. “This lineup is unique; this has never happened with these four.”
This is a band that will provide festival flair, which could be anything from traditional bluegrass to psychedelic country rock. They’ve got the festival songbook to pull from, as well as Grant’s past recordings and cuts from his forthcoming record.
“We’ll definitely do some up-tempo, get everybody grooving kind of bluegrass stuff,” Grant said. “But I’m seeing this as an opportunity to sort of rock out and get funky on some stuff as well.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at [email protected]