Sweet sounds, good times as final concert closes 20 years of Whittle the Wood
By the end of the day Saturday, Dave Pike was feeling more relaxed than he had in weeks, as the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous concluded successfully.
The main reason for that sense of ease — it wasn’t Friday.
The yearly festival closed with thousands of spectators on the grounds of Loudy-Simpson Park for the headlining concert by Leftover Salmon to wrap up the week of woodcarving, music and more.
The throngs of people were a welcome sight for Pike compared to 24 hours earlier, when a brief but strong downpour chased away everyone in sight.
And, while Friday openers Black Mountain Riot went on to hit the stage at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center that night after having their set interrupted, Front Range group The Movers & Shakers had little opportunity to perform.
Pike offered both bands the opportunity to play Friday afternoon, though neither could fit it in their schedules.
Even so, Boise, Idaho-based Tylor & The Train Robbers got the crowd warmed up Saturday afternoon with a blend of folk and country leading up to Pike’s announcement of Whittle the Wood’s winning carvers.
Frontman Tylor Ketchum said the big show was one of three in Craig with back-to-back weekend sets at JW Snack’s, though being in the park worked to their advantage.
“The sound was pretty good onstage here, and it’s a really cool festival they’ve got here,” he said. “We love whenever we get to do outdoor stuff in the summer.”
As the carving ceremony wrapped for good, time came for the final concert from Leftover Salmon, coming up on 30 years of existence with a wide range of sounds, ranging from rock to bluegrass to Zydeco with roots in Boulder.
“We’ve been hitting a home run the last few years getting big Colorado bands like Salmon, Big Head Todd, The Subdudes,” Pike said. “After 20 years we should know how to do it by now.”
A rousing round of jams, bursting with instrumental solos kept the crowd on their feet in front of the stage, full of both locals and visitors alike.
More than an hour into the set, guitarist, vocalist and co-founder Vince Herman let the audience know things were just getting started, with a few “leftovers” still in store.
“Let’s rage, Craig,” Herman said.
Craig’s Megan Mudge was among those right up front with 4-year-old Kaygrie, though the two took a break from being right next to the speakers.
“I love letting the kids get that experience up front,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun. We come every year.”
Vail couple Todd Willis and Gretchen Pleshaw were planning to meet with the band for a radio interview for an upcoming summer festival, though being at the show was purely for leisure.
“I head the wood-whittling here was really cool,” Pleshaw said. “I really wanted to get out of Vail for a weekend and found this online and couldn’t believe it. We thought the ticket cost was amazing.”
Steamboat Springs’ Katie and Evan McCaulley felt the same, with Evan having seen Leftover Salmon quite a while ago and wanting to renew his sense of the group.
“It’s beautiful weather and awesome music,” Katie said.
Though the four-day stretch was far from flawless given Friday’s rain delay, Pike said he couldn’t have planned a better finale.
“Smoothest one we’ve ever had. Yesterday’s already long forgotten,” he laughed Saturday night. “Back then, I didn’t think it would last this long, but I was impressed with the way Craig came out today.”
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When you hear an unholy shriek or a cacophony of chest-pounding hundreds of feet high, you know you’re about to see something fantastic.