What a weekend it was in our little town. With Seven Peaks bringing top names such as Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osbourne, Sam Bush and many others, to a larger than life stage, nestled in a picturesque meadow with views for days, local bluegrass rockstars, Rapidgrass, fit right into the line-up.
While touring in France, the band learned that they had scored two spots in the Labor Day weekend festival. Following up on Monday evening, mandolin player Alex Johnstone reminisced on the weekend, starting with “Did that even just happen?”
Coleman Smith, owner of Coletrain Music Academy in South Main and the guy ripping on the fiddle, agreed.
“It was an opportunity that most musicians only get to dream of,” he said. “Surrounded by musicians of that caliber that are also equally accommodating as they are talented is a dream come true for someone who has spent their life and devoted their life to music.”
Jed Selby, owner of the Meadows venue and longtime booster and good friend of the band was very excited to see Rapidgrass experience Seven Peaks from the stage.
“It was a dream come true to have some of my best friends and awesome musicians take the big stage, particularly with someone as big as Dierks Bentley. I think their excitement was beyond belief, and it was really an opportunity of a lifetime.”
First up was their show in the Whiskey Row tent on the smaller stage of the two.
“The small stage was a lot of local people. I looked out and saw a lot of Rapidgrass hats, and I saw a lot of friends,” Johnstone recounts. “There was a really cool personal aspect being on that stage. I felt a lot of love from the community.”
Rumors were flying, and Johnstone “had a pretty good idea” that festival currator Dierks Bentley would be joining them on the stage.
The moment Bentley walked out on stage was the first time Johnstone met him. Without any rehearsal or conversation on what song the band was going to sing with Dierks, there were definite moments of the unknown, a few hiccups and a lot of laughter.
“It was awesome he would be that musically vulnerable and on the spot with us. I thought it was really cool.” The crowd got to cheer and dance to “Good Hearted Woman” and “On the Road Again” while basking in the spontaneity that ran throughout Seven Peaks.
Sunday afternoon took Rapidgrass to the biggest stage they’ve ever played.
“That stage was a cathedral.
“The big stage was just crazy excitement. I’ve never gotten to hear my little mandolin out of that many speakers,” Johnstone recalls. Once again, Rapidgrass got to share this stage with Bentley, as they covered Willie Nelson’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.”
Being able to be at that venue and hearing songs written locally about a love for Buena Vista was a highlight.
Lead singer Mark Morris led the band in “My Soul” which involved crowd interaction as lyrics about trail running on Midland Hill graced the ears of those present.
The Live Nation team created quite the experience for both locals and musicians alike.
“I think they made a great impression. The production was beautiful, the food was great, the backstage hospitality was great, and I think they were pretty respectful with the noise ending at a reasonable hour, and I’m a neighbor to the Meadows. I thought it was a great fit for Chaffee County,” says Johnstone.
As far as Dierks goes, the band was impressed.
Johnstone summed up the admiration: “He writes his own songs, sings his own songs, has a great sense of humor and he’s really loyal to the people he listened to as he was coming up in fame.
“After meeting him and getting to sing with him, I will say he’s very honest about what he loves. He wears it on his sleeve. It was neat that all of these performers were his friends – a representation of his career and personal taste. I gave him advice on a local trailhead, and he jotted it down in his phone. The guy is a superhero!”
Coleman Smith echoed the sentiment.
“Dierks is my new favorite dude. He is about as rad as they come. I was blown away by how tangible he was, not only to his audience and fans, but also to each and every musician that he had there.
“Every time I turned around he was thanking somebody, welcoming somebody, or he was on stage joining us for both sets, and I saw him doing numerous appearances with some of my favorite musicians in the world.”
A favorite moment for both Johnstone and Mark Morris, was the great tee-shirt reveal.
“The most exciting part was when Dierks took off his jacket and revealed he was wearing a Rapidgrass shirt,” Morris said. “He actually didn’t tell anyone he was going to do that, and he comically snuck into my truck and grabbed a shirt and hat. After we sang ‘Pancho and Lefty,’ he took his jacket off and surprised the band by sporting a Rapidgrass shirt. What a cool guy!”
When asked whether or not Rapidgrass would want to come back a second year if it happens, Johnstone replied, “If it was up to me, I’d play that festival every year it happens. I hope we’re in the club!”
Smith agreed. “If we’re that lucky, it would be my honor.”
At the end of a long weekend, there’s nowhere to go but up for this gem of a band that we’re so very lucky to call friends and neighbors.