Crown Festival: Come Play with Us

Edgar Winter, Lee Ritenour, Rusty Young, Poco among headliners at Bigfork festival

New & Notable
Crown Festival: Rusty Young
Rusty Young and Poco perform Aug. 30 with Justin Townes Earle.

“Come play with us” say the folks at the Crown Guitar Festival, who are gearing up for the ninth annual weeklong guitar music extravaganza, Aug. 28-Sept. 1 in Bigfork. This year’s headliners include Edgar Winter, jazz artists Pat Martino and Lee Ritenour, Rusty Young and Poco with Justin Townes Earle, and Jim Messina.

In five nights of concerts, the master musicians who are teaching at the Crown Guitar Workshop will perform in their genres, offering a rare opportunity for local Montanans and visitors to hear some of their favorite musical icons in an intimate setting at a reasonable cost. That unbeatable combo has earned the festival the reputation as “the best backyard party of the summer!”

Produced by the nonprofit Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation the Festival is set in a scenic meadow at Flathead Lake Lodge. Concerts are held in an all-weather big-top tent with professional sound, lighting and close-up video projections of the stage action.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for pre-show music on the intimate Meadow Stage that showcases the talented workshop students and faculty, many of whom are professional musicians.

Crown No. 9: Let the music begin

Crown # 9 starts off with a Rock and Blues party on Tuesday, Aug. 28, with legendary rocker and composer Edgar Winter and his full bad. Winter’s music encompasses many different genres, including rock, jazz, blues, and pop, and he has composing credits on 15 films and TV projects. Special guest Mark Bonilla on lead guitar sits in with the band. Opening the show is Cory Henry, a Grammy-winning B3 organist/keyboardist known for his work with the bands Snarky Puppy and more currently as leader of The Funk Apostles.

Jazz takes the stage Wednesday, Aug. 29, with the Pat Martino Trio, led by the virtuosic jazz guitarist who offers a polished jazz style honed over a long career. Contemporary jazz follows with multi-Grammy nominee and winner Lee Ritenour, back for his eighth appearance. Nathan East, bassist extraordinaire fresh off his tour with Eric Clapton, will fill in the deep notes. Ritenour and East are founding members of the jazz quartet Fourplay.

Americana night on Thursday, Aug. 30, blends two styles of folk and roots music. The “experienced” guitar sounds of Rusty Young and the iconic band Poco are augmented by Justin Townes Earle, a songwriter who is considered a forefather of contemporary Americana. Emerging artist Guthrie Brown, a Nashville transplant from “Old Montana,” opens the show.

Stars and Rising Stars on Friday, Aug 31, is bonus night that brings together workshop participants and their faculty teachers to show off new and improved skills. The evening is like a recital on steroids with no breaks between act and each group performing with a backup band. Suggested donation is $10.

Crown Festival: Liz Longley
Songwriter Liz Longley brings her distinctive voice and guitar to the festival finale Sept. 1.

Classical and Rock Festival Finale on Saturday, Sept 1, starts at 4 p.m. and offers five hours of nonstop music. Three full music sets are planned, opening with the artistry of SoloDuo comprised of Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli, performing Italian classical guitar. Songwriter Liz Longley then brings her distinctive voice and guitar to a set of personal songs.

The evening revs up when Jim Messina and his Good Road Band are joined by Rusty Young – his former collaborator in the popular band Poco – for a country-rock extravaganza. Expect some musical surprises as the evening progresses and musicians jump onstage for a grand finale.

Food and drink vendors are onsite and an auction tent is set up for bidding on an array of artwork, concert tickets and assorted delights that help support the foundation’s workshop scholarship program.

 Magic Bus for a Magic Night

Transportation is available from the Whitefish area to the concert for Tuesday’s opening and Saturday’s finale. The Magic Bus ticket of $60 includes a concert ticket and round-trip ride from Whitefish. Seating is limited and advance reservations are recommended.

Single advance concert tickets are $40 adult, $20 youth through age 18 ($5 more at the gate). A transferable Crown Pass for all five concerts is $200 and includes preferred seating and a logo seat cushion. Buy tickets online at or call 855-855-5900.