HEARD & SCENE: Let Us Rendezvous

By on March 14, 2018

The massive spring fest happens this weekend

Canyon Kids at music under the tram in March. (Lindley Rust)

JACKSON HOLE, WY –March in Jackson Hole has become synonymous with a full-blown musical extravaganza hosted by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Massive 4JH subsidies provided an unprecedented boost to the entertainment starting in 2015 with the 50th anniversary event. Rebranded as Rendezvous Fest a year earlier, the event grew to new heights when Zac Brown Band drew record crowds two years in a row. But the second installment brought JHMR financial losses and locals were irked by the paid admission, so this year resort officials restructured Rendezvous Fest. All shows are free and a fresh high-powered headlining band takes the stage Saturday eve.

Last weekend, JHMR’s programming focused primarily on younger demographics, dubbed “College Rendezvous,” to garner the attention of college spring-breakers. Jackson Hole has been on the leaderboard for snowpack this winter, and the icing on the spring break cake was national talent under the tram for an all-time series of apres ski sets. Live acts ran the gamut from the electronic funk of Washington State’s Yak Attack, the soulful Ayron Jones, jam-funk crew The Main Squeeze, and the feel-good vibes of Bay Area’s Midnight North.

This upcoming weekend of Rendezvous Fest will see free performances Thursday through Sunday. The weekend is bookended with performances under the tram at 3 p.m. Thursday includes a Southern-fried legacy pairing of Devon Allman Band with Duane Betts. It is indeed quite the combination—the children of longtime bandmates-turned-adversaries Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts. Hometown reggae outfit Chanman Roots Band will draw the curtain on 2018’s event with a special set on Sunday.

Friday of Rendezvous weekend spreads the love past the economic fences of Teton Village to downtown Jackson,  where the festival stage will sit at the southeast corner of Town Square. The evening opens with a set by Frankie Ballard. While Ballard’s physical appearance suggests he’s a stunt-double for The Fonz, he has a modern, radio-friendly approach to music. The singer-songwriter has had three No.1 country hits to date and boasts Spotify streams in excess of 2.2 million. Headliners are The Mavericks, founded more than 25 years ago as a standout alternative band in a Miami rock scene dominated by hair metal and punk. Over the decades, The Mavericks have undergone stylistic as well as personnel changes, but one constant is a high-energy show. Public entry starts at 5 p.m.

Holding the record for most performances by any single band on the Teton Village stage, Michael Franti & Spearhead is no stranger to this event. If you haven’t had the good fortune to catch his high-energy hybrid of pop melodies and reggae grooves brought to life by a much-needed message of world peace and positivity, consider arriving early to JHMR on Saturday. Yes, some people have Franti fatigue as he has become emblematic of Rendezvous Fest in his many appearances there. But unlike many artists that visit the valley, Franti uses his celebrity status as a platform for social activism. Before the 2016 presidential election, Franti told the Pittsburgh Gazette: “I never endorse political candidates, but I do endorse ideas. I just want as many people as possible to participate in this election and send the message ‘I vote for restoring our climate’ or ‘I vote for education’ or ‘I vote for peace,’ whatever it is people feel passionate about.”

Portugal. The Man headlines Rendezvous Fest Saturday at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

In contrast, when headliner Portugal. The Man recently took home a Grammy for Best Group Performance for the single “Feel it Still,” the Alaska rock band used its acceptance speech to pretend to wipe their bums with the trophy and transmit a worldwide message of “Hail Satan!”  The band might not write songs about sunshine, beach hangs or speak about climate change, but perhaps those too are reasons to make their set Saturday at JHMR. Yes, this is an act atypical of the headliners of the past.  Portugal. The Man describes its show as “a fluid performance, without computers but with live instruments that borrow from a diverse musical palette.”

The venue opens at 5 p.m. on Saturday with fireworks after the headlining performance. Avoid the traffic and ride START Bus, bike or carpool.

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