the last notes of summer

By Jim Stanford on August 13, 2013

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A rainbow appears over the Targhee Bluegrass Festival on Saturday.

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.

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at Targhee, surprises well into the night

By Jim Stanford on July 29, 2013

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Brittany Howard, right, gave an impassioned performance with Alabama Shakes. Yes, that’s a tattoo of Alabama on her arm.

Last Sunday’s performance by Alabama Shakes was the most highly anticipated set at Targhee Fest, and the young rockers from Athens, Ala., did not disappoint.

“Are you scared to wear your heart out on your sleeve?” the quartet’s lead singer and guitarist, Brittany Howard, sang late in the show on “You Ain’t Alone.”

Howard poured her heart all over the Targhee stage, wailing on vocals and guitar on achingly beautiful songs like “Hold On.” A crowd of nearly 4,000 swayed and danced in appreciation. After a 90-minute set, the band returned for a four-song encore as the sun sank low over the distant hills of Idaho.

While the red-hot Shakes were a highlight as expected, what made the ninth annual Targhee Fest such a stirring weekend were unexpected high points seemingly around each bend.

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trails, tunes await festgoers

By Jim Stanford on July 19, 2013

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Steve Jones descends the new 38 Special trail into Teton Canyon.

One of the perks of the Widespread Panic weekend at Grand Targhee — redeeming the festival from just total hedonism — was trying out some of the new mountain biking trails at the resort.

Targhee has been improving its trail network in recent years, adding signage for the Quakie Ridge Loop in Rick’s Basin and Lightning Loop to the south. The Mill Creek downhill into Teton Canyon also has seen a substantial upgrade.

Now there are a couple of well-marked routes going up and down Peaked Mountain. Accessed from Lightning Ridge, the Peaked trail climbs in gradual switchbacks to the top of the Peaked chairlift before linking up with 38 Special, a long downhill full of banked turns. 38 Special descends into Mill Creek, and riders can continue all the way to Teton Canyon or climb back to the resort.

There’s also plenty of lift-served downhill biking on the front of Fred’s Mountain, for those who prefer to do their climbing via a chairlift ride.

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hanging on to Solid Rock

By Jim Stanford on July 10, 2013

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Jimmy Herring belts out a solo with help from Jojo Hermann and John Bell on Saturday as Widespread Panic plays the last of three shows at Grand Targhee.

John Bell blew on his hands as he stepped to the microphone to begin the second set Saturday at Grand Targhee.

“We’ve been freezing our asses off the last few days,” the Widespread Panic singer and guitarist said. Then, he smiled at the wide-eyed fans ready to dance before the stage. “Warm people!” he said in his trademark growl.

Rather, it was the hot music that kept fans moving throughout a marathon three-night run at the Alta, Wyo., resort. No matter how worn out everyone was from the revelry and 8,000-foot elevation, time after time the Southern rockers picked up the crowd with simmering grooves.

Whether it was the funk throwdown of “Arleen” from the last set Saturday, the cover of “No Sugar Tonight” to close Friday or a blistering “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” on July 4, Widespread brought the heat. A few pre-show rain showers — cool weather by Wyoming standards but perhaps freezing to Athens, Ga., musicians — failed to put a chill on the festivities.

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Panic fan’s guide to Targhee 2013

By Jim Stanford on July 4, 2013

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Yeah, the air here, breathing’s great. John Bell at Targhee in 2011.

The slopes are free of snow. Mud and mosquitoes shouldn’t be a problem. The band may still need oxygen, but they won’t have to bundle up in jackets.

Widespread Panic is headed North again, back to the land of sunny rocks and funny trees that is Grand Targhee. The veteran Southern rockers will play three concerts at 8,000 feet at the Alta, Wyo., resort, beginning on the Fourth of July.

Whereas the band’s last visit, in 2011, came after a massive winter that left snow on much of the mountain — allowing fans to make turns before the shows — this time Widespread arrives in the full splendor of summer in the Tetons.

“Instead of skiing from top to bottom, you’ll be able to mountain bike top to bottom,” says Ken Rider, the resort’s marketing director.

Although there’s a chance of thunderstorms in the next few days, conditions should be ideal compared to the challenges of 2011. Here’s a guide for Spread Heads heading up into the hills for a musical Vacation.

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