Society is inching back toward music normality. Slowly, like a turtle in a footrace with a sloth. But it’s happening. The shows that have happened live are as close to “normal” as they can possibly be while adhering to social-distancing standards, while those promoters and festival organizers who are still choosing to go virtual are bending over backwards to make them as close to normal as possible.
This time last year and 23 additional years before, Reservoir Hill in Pagosa Springs was packed with celebratory festival goers in attendance for The Four Corners Folk Festival, and while the wooded area that has proved to be dang-near perfect festival grounds for the past few decades is currently empty (save for a few hikers or bikers taking advantage of it being vacant for the weekend), the event will still happen for a few hours tonight, viewed via KSUT Radio’s Facebook page and heard via its FM broadcast.
Performers include one song from Michael Franti, abbreviated sets from Tommy Emmanuel and Rising Appalachia, and sets from locals Stillhouse Junkies and the duo of Caitlin Cannon and Alice Wallace. Both Stillhouse Junkies and the duo of Cannon and Wallace performed their sets for festival staff members, a film and lighting crew, and sound recording team earlier in the week on the stage on Reservoir Hill, for rebroadcast today.
Having two of the sets recorded on the festival grounds was an effort to make a virtual event as real as possible. Because you can’t get to the venue, it made sense to bring the venue to you.
“The biggest challenge lies in crafting an experience which brings the same excitement, joy and sense of familial unity to our festival community,” said Four Corners Folk Festival Director Jill Davis. “These are challenging times for many, and we really knew we needed to create something that would bring Reservoir Hill to our festival family.”
The lineup for these events has never been heavy with local talent, but if you’re going to book a local band, Stillhouse Junkies fit the mold, with two-thirds of the band, bass player Cody Tinnin and fiddle player Alissa Wolf, growing up in the region.
Wolf has attended this event since she was a kid, her experiences on Reservoir Hill a catalyst for pursuing music and performance professionally.
“I tried to attend every year with my Dad when I was in middle and high school, and it has remained a very special event because it was one of the most musically inspiring experiences I’ve ever had,” Wolf said in an email. “I was trained classical on violin, and it was festivals like these that showed me I could turn my violin into a fiddle and learn to improvise and create my own style. So many memories, so much inspiration, and I told my Dad someday I wanted to play that stage. 2020 was supposed to be that year, but being able to still play virtually is an honor.”
These virtual concerts and web-viewed festivals do have their silver lining: The weather’s always good in your living room, and there’s rarely a line for the porta-potty. COVID-19 could disappear tomorrow, but these types of events are here to stay. Nothing can replace the feeling you get from attending a live concert, the immediate auditory satisfaction of hearing a ripping guitar solo, or a version of “The Ballad of Spider John” that induces tears, or that connection between the person on stage and you.
“I foresee in the not-to-distant future, that many of these festivals are going to be available for watching from your own house,” said KSUT development director and die-hard festival attendee Chris Aaland. “You can’t make it out to Grey Fox, or Telluride, or MerleFest, but you want to watch it. Well, they now have the ability and the knowledge to do that.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.