The nature of vacations is that they fly by way too quickly. And my first 2 week vacation since, well, since I started working for a living, is about to draw to a close. After I celebrate my 39th year on earth tomorrow, it’s back to the grind on Tuesday.
My family and I just spent 11 great days with my mom and my dad in Telluride, Colorado. My folks live up there during the summers, and it has become a yearly tradition to strap the car-sick-prone kids into the vehicle and brave the 9+ hours to the San Juans of southwest Colorado.
As fate would have it, along with the hiking, fly fishing, restaurantin’, Smugglers Brewpubbin‘ and such, I managed to catch some quality live music during our visit. Early on, it was James McMurtry playing for free in Mountain Village. And Friday, for our final day in town, it was the Telluride Cajun Festival, featuring Louisiana native Papa Mali, with new BFF (and drummer for the Dead) Bill Kreutzmann in tow…
First, I’d be remiss to neglect the opening act, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real. Lukas and his band impressed the crowd with some strong blues-based rock. The songs were mostly originals. “Mystery” was one of the best, a nice uptempo number reminiscent of Van Morrison (you can hear it on their MySpace page). He also played a couple of impressive covers. If only I could remember one. Instead of jotting them down on my iPhone, I was busy juggling my two girls and a Hurricane. And look at this, I didn’t discover this until just now: Lukas sort of has music running in the family – his dad is Willie Nelson.
Papa Mali is the nickname of Malcolm Welbourne, born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. Growing up immersed in the music of the Meters, Papa John, the Wild Tchoupitoulas and the like, he jumped into the Louisiana music scene. He has two albums out, Thunder Chicken and Do Your Thing.
A year or two ago, Papa Mali met Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann at a music festival in Oregon. They hit it off, striking up a personal friendship that has spilled over into their professional lives. This summer, they’re touring as “Papa Mali featuring Bill Kreutzmann”. Anfd lucky for me, they stopped through Telluride on Friday night.
Setting the Scene: The Telluride Cajun Festival is a small street festival, not a behemoth like the Bluegrass Festival in Town Park. They block off a small section of Colorado Avenue (the main street in town), set up some tents for food & drink (Smuggler’s Brewpub, Fat Alley BBQ, the Floradora), and a stage on the east end of the block. Oh, and it takes a $25 ticket to wiggle your butt inside.
Papa Mali channels Jerry: Not having seen Papa Mali before, and having limited exposure to his music (I’ve had Do Your Thing for a couple years, but haven’t spun it that much), I had no expectations. What I was thrilled to get was a couple full hours of rootsy, Louisiana flavored, jam-heavy music – with a healthy dose of tunes made popular by the Dead: “Bertha” (the show opener), “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, “I Know You Rider”, “Lovelight”, and “Mr. Charlie” (the closer).
The non-Dead tunes were heavy on the swampy, N’awlins vibe, frequently launching into extended jams. After the kids were off to bed, and the beer and the Hurricanes were flowing (margaritas and “swamp water” for the wife) – Papa Mali, Bill and the band were sounding oh so sweet to the ears. Fannies were shaking hard in the cool mountain air.
In my typical fashion, I managed to stalk locate Bill Kreutzmann after the show for a quick pic. Behold, one of the members of the Grateful Dead! And I just noticed on Twitter that he sat in with Phish at Red Rocks tonight for a few songs…
I assure you I am not grabbing Bill’s ass in this photograph – though it appears so.
Ahh, Telluride. Your spirit is refreshing and intoxicating. Until next year…
Listen: Papa Mali – Early In The Morning (mp3)