People may complain about the wildlife-induced traffic jams or the crowds of Ikon Pass holders in the tram line, but there are some perks to living in Jackson. One of those is the Rendezvous Festival.
Grace Potter will kick off Jackson Hole’s sixth annual Rendezvous Festival at 5:30 p.m. Friday with an outdoor concert on Town Square. The revelry will last through the weekend with shows by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Greensky Bluegrass, Brent Cowles, and the Chanman Roots Band.
“We’re celebrating the season,” said Anna Cole, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s communications director. “This is a thank you to our locals and an awesome festival.”
Cole said festival organizers asked themselves, “Who is going to put on a great show outdoors, in the mountains.” What they landed on is an eclectic mix of bands from different traditions who all share a passion for live performance and a reputation for putting on a good show.
Grace Potter is from Vermont, where she hosts a music festival every fall, Grand Point North, but she has roots out West, too. Her sister, Charlotte, used to live in Jackson, and Grace has performed on both sides of Teton Pass in years past.
In 2015, after 13 years with her band, the Nocturnals, Potter struck out on her own with the release of the LP “Midnight.” The album marked a departure from the gritty soul rock of the Nocturnals to a more pop-oriented sound.
“She’s a pop rock eclectic now,” New York Times journalist Jon Caramanica wrote.
Potter’s voice is the common thread that makes the music on “Midnight” instantly recognizable if you have ever heard the Nocturnals. She howls over the tightly produced arrangements with visceral, at times even uncomfortable, emotional weight.
In the few years since “Midnight,” Potter has continued hosting her homegrown music festival in Vermont, she has given birth to a baby boy, and, according to her manager, she is now holed away in the studio working on an album. As a new mother Potter has had less time for shows. Rendezvous Fest is one of only a few scheduled performances on her calendar.
Nathaniel Rateliff and his longtime bandmate Joseph Pope III may not have roots in the mountains, but they grew up close to nature.
“The landscape will forever be a part of me,” Rateliff told Rolling Stone, about his hometown of Herman, Missouri. “I just kind of wandered the woods, checked things out. I’d spend a lot of time doing that.”
Rateliff has used that melancholy and his propensity for wandering to fuel two albums of soul rock with the Night Sweats. Last March the band put out a new album, “Tearing at the Seams.” Much of the material on the album was written by Rateliff as he underwent a painful separation with his wife. The music is still deeply rooted in soul and boogie, but the arrangements are more spacious and the band’s sound borrows more from indie rock than in the past. The result is a spectacular mix of revivalist soul, heartbreaking lyricism and creative arrangements.
This is Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ second Rendezvous Festival after they filled Town Square in 2016.
“They like to party and have a good time,” Cole said. “Hopefully we’ll see them out enjoying the rest of the festivities.”
The band will play its set on the resort stage on Saturday night. Joining it will be Greensky Bluegrass, another band of super-talented musicians with roots in traditional music. Greensky has been putting out face-melting “newgrass” for the past 18 years and has graced stages in Jackson Hole a few times.
If you haven’t had enough after Greensky and the Night Sweats, the Deadlocks, a local Grateful Dead cover band, will be jamming in the Mangy Moose Saloon late into the night. Tickets cost $22 and can be bought at MangyMoose.com.
If the Deadlocks are lucky they’ll have some guests from the other acts hop on stage with them.
“We’d love to host Grace Potter or any of the Greensky guys onstage,” bassist Jed Frumkin said. “Grace has a very unique and powerful take on a number of Grateful Dead Songs.”
Teton County’s own Chanman Roots Band will round out the weekend with an afternoon of reggae under the Aerial Tram. Although the band covers reggae classics from Bob Marley and Toots and the Maytals, it also has a repertoire of skiing-related tunes, including “Skis Boots Poles” and “Ski When It’s Time,” that will have folks dancing their way down the hill.
Over the years the Rendezvous Festival has grown, shrunk, grown again, charged for tickets, not charged for tickets and, ultimately, learned from its experiences. After many iterations the organizers decided to book the biggest acts they could while keeping tickets free. The result is a weekend tearing at the seams with talented musicians and (hopefully) good skiing, too. ￼