Jon Grossman: A Texan perspective at MusicFest
January 8, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Among the many rituals that mark the New Year in Steamboat Springs, the stampeding Texans and the image of a Lone Star State-sized tent, is one many know well.
For nearly 30 years, Dickson Productions' MusicFest has brought fans and musicians together to the grandeur of the Yampa Valley for a week of revelry and inspiration. Despite its longevity, many locals likely know little about their visitors.
For those outside MusicFest's orbit, the world of Texas country music can seem to be from another planet. The featured stars are unfamiliar and the enthusiasm of fans is confounding. For the initiated, no other music or social scene can match this. MusicFest's lack of national popularity only increases the fervor of its devotees. Being a fan is like belonging to an exclusive club.
Within that club, no experience equals Steamboat. This week is spoken about year-round, and among those who haven't been, it takes on legendary proportions.
Beyond the shows, the late-night jams and pickin' circles, a level of intimacy among fans and artists is unparalleled — imagine seeing your favorite singer from an arm's length away.
For the aspiring artist, few opportunities rival Steamboat for the chance to step a rung or two up the ladder. Each year, dozens of neophytes make the trek on their own dime, with the hope that one of their melodies will catch an influential ear.
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More established bands benefit from the assembling of promoters and radio personalities as well as the concentration of fans — not all of whom actually live in Texas. Pockets of devotees dot the map from Idaho to Alberta, and their fervor can make the difference from wanting to be a touring musician and being one.
I joined my band, Uncle Lucius, partly because of its landing a Steamboat gig. I arrived here in 2010 entirely unfamiliar with Texas music or any of its stars. Our performance that year led to our first record deal and every significant advance in our career can in some way be linked back to our gigs on and around Mount Werner.
Each year we come brings a sense of renewal and reawakening, of humbling myself beneath the shadow the mountains cast.
Steamboat, to its Texan devotees, is more than a gorgeous resort town. It's a season unto itself, a rite of passage, an interlude from reality, a true community. We may be louder and rowdier than most, but we Texans are as grateful as any to be among your visitors, and the experience we have in your town resonates year-round.