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Blues festival a welcome relief from recent tragedy

nKUNM show to rebroadcast event Saturday night

While the mending of this nation's wounds remains on a touch-and-go basis, a festive audience in Colorado wasted no time in getting down to the business of healing.

The eighth annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival stayed on track last weekend while entertainment venues across the country were derailed by catastrophe. This event took place, incidentally, at a time when music is needed most.

Blues has always been considered the quintessential American-born music. As it spread across the globe after the second World War, it took a message to the world that is classically American: everybody gets the blues.

If you've never heard this expression, its implications are quite simple - sadness is a reason to sing. The 1,000-plus attendees of last weekend's celebration were more than grateful for an opportunity to congregate in song and dance.

"The timing (of this festival) was perfect. It came just in time," said Rocky Jester, one of the festival's many young faces.

His sentiment was shared by all. To everyone's surprise and contentment, security was at a minimum as was pushing and shoving between audience members. Singing and dancing, as well as respect and consideration between people was at a high point. Folks were trusting of each other, not scared, and the peace that could not be attained in other parts of the world was masterfully orchestrated here.

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Kenny Neils of the Neils Brothers believes blues music is peace inspiring by nature.

"I think that the blues, and the type of music we do from the heart, it might help a lot of the people when we're out touring," Neils said after his Saturday evening prelude performance to Taj Mahal and James Brown. "Like today when I started to play Amazing Grace, I wanted to do it, but I got watery-eyed. I wanted to do a little bit of something today to show my respect."

While the Neils Brothers and a few other bands made reference to the trouble outside Telluride, most were content not to bring it up and let their music speak for itself. It would be untrue to say that anyone who was there was able to forget the rest of the world for three days, but people were there to remember what peace felt like.

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul and the headliner of the event, was the only performer to make an extensive speech on the matter at the close of the festival on Sunday evening. He then introduced a song that he and his company had come up with that week in light of the tragedy - a funky, soul-based song whose message is "killing's out, school's in."

Saturday at 7 p.m., as a memorial to the events in New York and Washington, radio station KUNM - FM 89.9, in its "Ear to the Ground" series, will rebroadcast music it recorded live from the festival.

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