As summer is winding down and festival season is coming to a close, you might want to start making plans for next year...and visiting Challis, Idaho, the home of the Braun Brothers Reunion.
Many times after a music festival, sites will regale us with lists of “10 of the Best Things We Saw At...” Well, at this year’s Braun Brothers Reunion, that number would total sixteen, the number of artists who played the Reunion, as every single one of them (and their bands) brought something special to the outdoor stage, performing standout sets for a record number of attendees at what could be argued was the best BBR yet.
Having a reputation for providing an environment that attracts not only well-respected artists, but a music loving audience as well, the family owned and operated Festival took place in the beautiful town of Challis, Idaho from August 11-13th. Over the course of three gorgeous days, the BBR hosted beloved Americana artists beginning with Sunny Sweeney who had the audience wrapped around her fierce, sassy (and incredibly humorous) finger as she played songs including “Bad Girl Phase,” and “Drink Myself Single" as well as a few covers. William Clark Green and his crew were up next, performing such favorites as “Sticks and Stones,” and “She Likes The Beatles” before closing with “Ringling Road” while clearly enjoying the welcoming reception from the crowd for their first BBR. Oklahoma’s Jason Boland and The Stragglers brought a huge crowd front and center where they enjoyed a set that included “Dark and Dirty Mile,” “Holy Relic Sale” and “Electric Bill.” Following Boland was esteemed singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo who, with his full band, performed a simply dynamic set. On stage, Escovedo exudes a seasoned professionalism while simultaneously being engaging and energetic, giving a “can’t take your eyes off of him” electrifying performance. While following Escovedo might appear to be daunting, Micky and The Motorcars, who traditionally close out Thursday night, were more than up to the task. Utterly defining the phrase “killed it," the performed songs including “Tonight We Ride,” “Hurt Again” and “Lost and Found", building an enthralling, energetic and exhilarating set. Before closing out the night with “Bloodshot,” they brought Escovedo back to the stage to perform his song “Sister Lost Soul” which is found on their latest album, Hearts From Above.
It might seem difficult to surpass Thursday’s line-up, but Friday was up to the challenge, kicking off with American Aquarium who returned to the BBR for a second year in a row to an even larger crowd front and center singing along to every word (as frontman Barham grinned from ear to ear) to “I Hope He Breaks You Heart,” “Southern Sadness” and “Losing Side of Twenty-Five.” Corb Lund had the audience laughing with his witty banter interspersed amongst such tunes as “Cows Around” (“As you all know the music industry goes in cycles and cow songs will be back”), “Time To Switch to Whiskey” and “Bible On The Dash.” Hayes Carll followed with a subdued set of thoughtful songs bringing Allison Moorer out to duet on a few. Perennial favorites, Cody Canada and Departed heard hoots and hollers from the crowd as they played mostly Ragweed material before paving the way for Turnpike Troubadours who closed out Friday absolutely thrilling the capacity crowd with a set that was fast-paced, high energy and downright fabulous.
As the third and final day set in on Saturday, Idaho native Jeff Crosby brought his full band and heartfelt tunes - a mix of blues, rock, and country - to the stage, emerging again later for an acoustic tune or two during the guitar pull, which is always a treat. Another special part of the festival is when the entire Braun family (father, sons, uncles and more) perform songs together as they did before Cody Johnson brought a dose of traditional country, and an immense energy to the day, with his set which included a nice serving of songs from his just released Gotta Be Me. Jonathan Tyler, who was clearly humbled by being asked to participate, followed and his set (which saw him sweating off the “twenty Coors” he had the night before) showcased his soulful, electric tunes closing with a wickedly cool performance of “Riverbottom” with an assist from Cody Canada on guitar. Paul Thorn brought his charming personality, sense of positivity and earnest lyrics with such tunes as “Everybody Needs Somebody” and "Love Scar" before Reckless Kelly closed out the festivities with “Radio” and “How Can You Love Him”(If You Don’t Really Like Him) from their upcoming album, Sunset Motel, as well as “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” and "Good Luck and True Love" before the all-star sing along on the traditional closer “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
Aside from food, beer, wine and the artists’ merch tents, there isn’t anything to purchase at the BBR….and that’s a good thing. With the focus clearly defined, the Reunion sets itself apart from similar events and maintains its uniqueness as a festival where the importance is on music, friends, family and, as Muzzie would say nightly, being "good to one another." It’s what keeps people, including myself, returning year after year. See you in 2017!
It's not too early to start planning for next year as the line-up is sure to be stacked and lodging fills up quickly. For more information visit the official website.