The newest “Ace” in Boulder’s burgeoning Bluegrass scene.

 

Boulder, Colorado has a long-standing love affair with bluegrass music. If you were really lucky, you might have even caught acts like Yonder Mountain String Band and String Cheese Incident playing free Sunday night bar gigs in the 1990s at Mountain Sun. Even if you weren’t technically there, you’ve probably told people you were there after a few IPA’s. No harm, no foul—we aren’t here to judge.

While the aforementioned acts are now headlining Red Rocks and other major venues across the country, the pipeline of talented bluegrass musicians still flows fast and furious through town, just like Boulder Creek on a warm spring day.

I first saw Billy Failing perform with his mainstay group, Billy Strings, at the 2018 Winter Wondergrass Festival in Steamboat Springs. They were set to play a short, forty-five minute set in a side stage tent, while the main stage was being changed over. About ninety seconds into their first song, I came to the quick conclusion that these guys weren’t going to be playing “tweener” sets very much longer. Later that year, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching them grace the main stage at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival, along with about 7,000 other sun-drenched festivarians.

Fast forward another few months, to this past December. While having lunch at Centro, I look over and spot a guy with long hair, a beard, wearing a Patagonia jacket. Contrary to what one might think, this is not a rare profile here in Boulder. I’m trying not to look like a total fanboy; I was curious as to what brought Failing to town on a random Tuesday in December. I introduced myself, and in our brief conversation, Billy told me that he had recently relocated to Boulder, from Nashville. We exchanged info and made a point to connect soon.

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with him for a beer at the beloved Mountain Sun Brewery on Pearl Street.