Pick and Howl takes first in 2022 RockyGrass band contest

The Colorado festival scene has long been known for its social as well as its musical collaboration. Like most parts of the bluegrass world, festival season means meeting up with friends you only see at Telluride or RockyGrass, and playing some tunes as well as catching up. This very thing is going on now in Virginia, among the thousands camping in Felts Park for the 86th annual Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax.

This Colorado scene is the story of Pick and Howl, a Denver bluegrass outfit whose dedication to their music has been rewarded this year with first place at the 2022 RockyGrass band competition. They are Jeremy Richard on guitar and lead vocals, Paul Larson on banjo, Andrew Gordon on reso-guitar, Melissa McKinley on fiddle, Peter Barbaro on mandolin, and Eric Gordon on bass.

Here’s a video of them from the contest, performing a band original called Dry Rips.

Jeremy was kind enough to detail the band’s history in brief, and a bit of a contest diary retailing their experience at RockyGrass this year.

“We met each other in the late night campground jams of Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2017,  and joined forces in 2018 to begin cutting our teeth at local venues. Within the year we had the good fortune of opening for some of our heroes like the Jeff Austin Band and The Travelin’ McCourys, and we were lucky enough to get legendary Colorado songwriter Benny “Burle” Galloway (Yonder Mountain String Band, Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon) to produce our first album in 2019, Looking For Answers.

Scheduled for a big 2020, we were stymied by COVID like everyone else, and used the downtime to record our second album, Count the Hours. The first gig we lost was a festival Leftover Salmon hosted in Colorado called Boogie at the Broadmoor, where we were supposed to take the stage directly before Jerry Douglas. Shortly after, we saw that Leftover Salmon had canceled their tour, and we reached out to banjo/general bluegrass wizard Andy Thorn to produce our second effort, which he did! Since then we’ve been putting the pieces back together, and we’re excited to add Rockygrass 2023 to an already exciting schedule of upcoming shows!

As for this year’s Rockygrass, we’re very fortunate that this is somewhat of a local festival for us, so every year it’s an opportunity to reunite with the Colorado bluegrass community we love so much. We often cross paths with each other throughout the year playing gigs, but both Telluride Bluegrass and RockyGrass festivals are when really get to catch-up and cross-pollinate musically, which is a yearly highlight for our whole band. After a long Friday night of picking with friends old and new, we took the stage Saturday afternoon to present our first round of original songs, Old Paper Mill, Dottie’s Dance and Catch Her in the Rye. We were proud of the set we put forward, and luckily the judges agreed. As a result, we advanced to the finals on Sunday along with fellow Colorado band Scott Slay and the Rail, and California-based The High Water Line.

We enjoyed the rest of the day of music in the festival watching Del McCoury and Sam Bush put on a masterclass to end the night, and proceeded back to what is a fairly small onsite camping space where there was no shortage of 20 jams already in progress.  We bounced around camp doing a nice mix of picking and listening, as the number of picks steadily grew to include all sizes and flavors, including a number of the mainstage artists picking around the campground. After another great night of seeing friends old and new, we retreated to our tents in preparation of the next day’s [gracious] 1:30 p.m. start time.

On the morning of the finals, we had breakfast at camp, ran through our second set of songs, and made our way over to a standing-room-only pavilion where we were slated to perform second. After great performances by all the bands, we were announced the winner having played our original tunes, Dry Rips, Olive June, and Hair Up High Near Jesus, followed by Scott Slay and the Rail (2nd), and The High Water Line (3rd). As long-time patrons and lovers of all of the festivals hosted by Planet Bluegrass, it’s truly an honor to put our name on the roster of past winners!”

Congratulations to Pick and Howl, and all the other competitors!

You can sample more of their music, and learn more about the band members, by visiting them online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.