By Jim Stanford on August 13, 2013
Donna The Buffalo had a better view than the crowd.
“Everybody scream!” guitarist Jeb Puryear urged fans spread out on the hillside, who willingly obliged. “Now turn around and look at the rainbow.”
The passing squall came during the band’s centerpiece jam, “Hot Tamale Baby,” on Saturday at the 26th annual Targhee Bluegrass Festival. The audience went wild in front of the stage, hooting and dancing in the rain as nature and the musicians put on a show.
The rainbow was yet another in a summer of magical moments at Grand Targhee. The Bluegrass Fest capped perhaps the best season of music yet at the Alta, Wyo., resort, which hosted three festivals spanning everything from the heavy rock of Widespread Panic to last weekend’s acoustic picking and fiddling.
Hailing from upstate New York, Donna The Buffalo was playing a Targhee festival for the third straight year. And the quintet again proved itself worthy of the honor. Co-leader Tara Nevins switched between fiddle, accordion, guitar and washboard; her squeeze box in particular kicked off a stampede of irresistible dance grooves, driven by David McCracken on keys.
Saturday closed with a tour de force performance by Trampled By Turtles. The all-string band from Duluth, Minn., made a triumphant return to Teton County as headliners after twice playing the Pink Garter in 2010, while still largely below the radar. Feverish picking and plucking set a breathtaking pace that rarely relented; fiddler Ryan Young literally got down as the quintet soared highest.
Trampled by Turtles drew a large and predominantly younger crowd than seen at past bluegrass fests. Many of the fans were seasonal workers enjoying a last hurrah before heading back to school and commitments elsewhere.
On an otherwise joyful weekend, the only hint of sadness was the unmistakable feeling that summer, like Targhee’s slate of music, was drawing to a close.
Trampled By Turtles mandolinist Erik Berry spoke for everyone when he asked for an appreciative cheer for the organizers: “Thank you!” he said emphatically.