RockyGrass Live over KGNU

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A couple of weeks back I wrote about the Telluride Festival's live broadcasts over KOTO. Except for a couple of minutes during the Hot Rize set the sound from KOTO was groady to the max.

Planet Bluegrass, who hosts the Telluride Festival, also produces the RockyGrass Festival in Lyons, Colorado.  And like the Telluride festival, they allow the local community radio station, Boulder's KGNU to broadcast highlights during the weekend. Fortunately for roots and bluegrass music lovers, KGNU broadcasts at a respectable 128 KBPS bit-rate, so their regular signal is quite decent, without the noise, grit and harmonic distortion that plagued the KOTO broadcast.

The only downside to the sonics from Rockygrass was that the feed was in what could best be described as "wide mono." Unlike a usual mono feed, that on my system has the width of about a quarter piece, KGNU's mono filled the center 1/3 of the soundstage with some specificity within the image area. Listening to Blue Highway's set, Rob Ickes dobro was definitely coming from one side of the mix while the vocals were more centered. I'll have to ask the David Glasser from Airshow Mastering (Airshow's James Tuttle has been involved with the sound at Rockygrass for years) whether KGNU got a mono or stereo feed from the main board.

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But despite the lack of audiophile levels of imaging, the sound from KGNU was excellent, good enough that I stayed pretty much glued to my computer most of Sunday morning. I especially enjoyed Jerry Douglas' band rendition of "Bright Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)." Jerry Douglas' dobro playing is so perfect, with just the right amount of vibrato and meandering double-stops. Charlie Cushman's precise and rhythmically dead-on banjo picking was also easy to hear in the mix.

The promise of the Internet - instant connection with exactly the kind of music in full-fidelity that you WANT to listen to right now - has yet to be fully realized. Low and even medium resolution streaming doesn't deliver enough music, but live broadcasts of musical events like Rockygrass make the promise of infinite amounts of great music seen much closer to reality.

And if you missed the "live" broadcast, if you go to the KGNU link earlier in the article, you'll find an "Archives" section where you can listen to some of the recordings anytime you want. The Del McCoury set smokes...

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