ain’t life Grand

John Bell and Dave Schools of Widespread Panic open Friday's concert at Grand Targhee with local favorite "Ain't Life Grand."

First came the snow. Then the mud. And, finally, the mosquitoes.

Despite all the challenges Mother Nature could conjure, Grand Targhee has pulled off an outrageous weekend of rock and roll, melding mountains and music in an experience that even the musicians described as a dream.

“Surreal,” Widespread Panic keyboardist Jojo Hermann said of the setting, on meeting resort owner Geordie Gillett.

Nearly 4,500 fans packed the mountainside Saturday to hear the second of three concerts by Panic, joined by J-Boogie, New Mastersounds and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. On Sunday afternoon, the Spread Heads were trying to rally for one more night, worn out from partying and grappling with the elements. Michael Menert and Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons also were slated to perform.

The weekend illustrated the difficulties of putting on a festival in a high alpine setting. First, after a massive winter that persisted well into spring, Targhee had to clear some 500,000 cubic yards of snow from the venue, which sits at 8,000 feet. Then, with temperatures reaching the 80s the last two weeks, runoff turned much of the slope into a swamp, a fertile breeding ground for the bugs that feasted on fans, workers or anyone standing still Friday.

Jimmy Herring rips a solo with Jojo Hermann on keys and drummer Todd Nance. The band played for about three hours each night.

For about an hour, as the Dirty Dozen wailed on horns, the mosquitoes had the upper hand. But when Panic came on, smoke billowing from a stage machine and the crowd sent the buggers into the forest in retreat.

Highlights from Widespread Panic included an encore of “City of Dreams” on Friday and “New Speedway Boogie” to end the first set Saturday. A Grateful Dead cover, “New Speedway” — with its refrain of “spent a little time on the hill” — resonated on a mountain where many fans went skiing and snowboarding before the show, and where the hippie heritage runs deep. (Read the setlists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.)

As if an explosive, three-hour Panic show wasn’t enough, fans partied to the Dirty Dozen afterward and then congregated at an RV in the camping lot where the Dead thumped from a sound system till dawn.

Teton County sheriff’s deputies made a handful of arrests, mostly for drug offenses. In one instance, a woman reportedly was busted after shooting off fireworks while openly selling bags of mushrooms only a stone’s throw from the cops’ command center.

View of the camping area and mountain. Photo via Grand Targhee.

Summer ski attire. Many fans made runs before the shows.

Kevin Harris of Dirty Dozen checks in at the Wyoming flag. Harris added his sax to Panic's "Use Me" and "Ride Me High," two of the finer moments Friday.

Panic set the tone for the weekend by opening with “Ain’t Life Grand,” a song about hard times that has been adopted locally into an anthem, with the Grand Teton looming over the valley.

“The sun came out the other day / Through those dusty clouds / And in my mind I was a child / And it felt good!” John Bell sang. The crowd went wild, rejoicing in the arrival of summer, Fourth of July and the band’s 25th anniversary.

Despite a few annoyances around the gate — owing mostly to co-promoter Knitting Factory, which instituted its own rules and security — Targhee provided fans with a taste of a major festival like Bonnaroo or Jazz Fest. And just like at those events, where rain and heat can wreak havoc, the challenges made the festival into an adventure.

“To rock a rhyme that’s right on time is tricky,” Run-D.M.C. boomed from the sound system as Friday’s show let out. “It’s tricky, tricky, tricky.”

A child plays in one of the creeks formed by melting snow. The mud took out tipsy, unsuspecting fans on Friday night, but conditions improved throughout the weekend as Targhee worked on the site.

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Posted under Music, Ski Resorts, Sports

10 Comments so far

  1. Rob W July 4, 2011 1:44 pm

    The setbacks were minor versus the outcome. Thanks for letting the boys kill it, Targhee.

  2. D July 6, 2011 11:29 am

    Did they happen to catch the Tank at the end of the same row Saturday night lol? I was a little surprised they set up shop so close to the LEO command center. All in all it was a great weekend.

  3. jojo:1013 July 8, 2011 4:57 pm
  4. sc July 9, 2011 2:14 pm

    9 days no news other than spread head stuff – is jh underground shut down for the summer?

  5. Aaron July 11, 2011 12:00 am

    Agree with sc, you on vacation Jim, or still stoned from Panic weekend?

  6. js July 11, 2011 8:42 am

    Cut me some slack, dudes. I work 3 jobs in summer, and lately I’ve been working 14-hour days on the river, day after day. Too fatigued to write. I have some good stuff I just haven’t had a chance to finish.

  7. D July 11, 2011 10:20 am

    Yeah no shit…. did you guys miss the posts Pre Panic about how good the river is? Chill a little.

  8. sc July 11, 2011 11:25 am

    Okay sorry Jim, just checking. I only discovered JH Underground during mudslide so didn’t know if it was seasonal. Been there, done that with 3 jobs.

  9. js July 11, 2011 1:44 pm

    No worries. I’ve been posting links and such when I’ve had time. There are RSS feeds, listings, links, etc. on this page for folks to check out when I haven’t posted anything new. Usually I have a day off the river during the week when I can get caught up on writing, but didn’t have that last week. Check back tomorrow. Thanks for staying tuned!

  10. Boat 1 Retired July 12, 2011 12:44 pm

    Jim – no time off for you! you must work work work. July had been super crazy with work and all the fun stuff to do around here – heck – even I haven’t been to SRB in 24 hours!!!

    Enjoy the sustained high flows and hopefully see you over at Targhee Fest this weekend!

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