Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Trio of Midsummer fests

July 14-19 - Greyfox

I arrived early on the Walsh Farm to volunteer, it is fun being there before everyone else, watching things unfold. Many improvements have been made to the site since last year, for example, the addition of some food vendors up on the hill near the main stage, and the quaint but rustic tractor-shuttles have been replaced by school buses. It made for a much more convenient festival experienc. The weather was good most of hte weekend except some rain on Friday required some heavy mud-slogging on Friday night and Saturday morning. I was glad I had my big yeller boots! Mountain Heart seems to have gone in a new direction, more rock nad jam influenced - they did a pretty good verion of Whipping Post, complete with keyboards, and drums. also Superstition. But they can can still pull wail out the straight ahead bluegrass too. liked it. Musically, my favorite part of the weekend was the 2 back to back workshop sets, one with Casey Driesen showing off his fiddle wizardry, including an amazing arrangement of Billie Jean. That was followed by a guitar workshop with Josh Williams, Danny Knicely from Tim O'brien's band, (and a band that played there a few years ago, Corn Tornado and Chris Eldridge from the Infamous Stringdusters.

I was camped out not too far from the dance tent, so that was the place to be - The RedStick Ramblers rocked it all three nights - and I also enjoyed the Waybacks there earlier Friday Night

Sunday was the biggest surprise of the weekend, when the Lee boys woke eveyrone up with their eye-opening and butt-shaking sacred Steel music. Looking forward to seeing them at RHythm and roots, here they will also share a set with Ron and Robbie McCourys.

July 25 - Lowell Folk Fest

Great time in Lowell this weekend! We got there around 4 pm Saturday afternooon, caught Dr Michael WHite w/ Liberty Jazz Band, then DL Menard - who substituted for Rosie Ledet , joined in the 2nd line with Glen David Andrews, then went to see the Lucky Stars western Swing, had Thai food for supper, followed by some more Michael White, andTrudy Lynn (blues singer).

We were lucky enough to get a room at the Doubletree downtown, so Sat night we were treated to the most amazing afterhours jam sessions in the hotel! Glen David Andrews would pop in from time to time with his trombone, sing a few songs, then wandered back off and someone else would lead a song. Some of the players in the jam included members of the NY Klezmer band, Sierra Hull's bluegrass band, the Lucky Stars Western Swing band , the trumpet player from Michael White's, some Cajun players, some fiddlers, and many more, a little bit of everything. It was an amazing mix just like the whole Lowell folk festival. There are so many songs that everyone knows, from all different backgrounds, like Bill Bailey, Sittin on Top of the World, etc.... musicians from all different backgrounds were equally well-versed.

Sunday morning, after a Brazilian breakfast, we headed over to Boarding House park to see an acapella gospel group - they were really great. Then, Sierra Hull at 1pm - a new young talent, kind of like mandolin-playing version of Alison Krauss! I think what is unique and special about this festival is all the performers play all weekend, and there is lots of interplay between all of them, who play multiple times all weekend in unique combinations that you would not ordinarily see. For instance there was a workshop/ performance on Sunday that included a sort of interview session / Q&A that made the connections between NY Klezmer and NO traditional jazz musicians . Left around 4 pm Sunday so it was an intense 24 hours, and even though we got to see alot we missed some too... can't be everywhere!

August 1 - Podunk Bluegrass festival

Missed this the past few years due to the Newport folk festival, but this year we returned to this 90% bluegrass festival (The other 10% this year was Natalie MacMaster) that takes place on a baseball field in a city park. We arrived on Saturday afternoon, parked the van in a shady spot, just in time to see some of Gold Heart, (last year's band contest winnder) followed by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. I enjoyed all the bands on the stage, but what I like most about this festival is the atmosphere, it is very relaxed and laid back.

For the evening set it was

James King Band
IIIrd Tyme Out
Steep Canyon Rangers

Dailey Vincent Band

Rhonda Vincent
Natalie MacMaster

Most of the bands I had seen elsewhere before but Dailey & Vincent were new to me. They were a lot of fun with their clowing around, all wearing hats tossed up from the audience, but their singing and playing was superb. James King sat in a few songs too. Natalie Macmaster , who hasn't toured much lately due to her growing family and is as talented as ever. She was a good sport, relaying stories of her travelling travails. She got everyone up out of their seats and dancing too.

After the concert I found a fun jam with friends from Grey Fox and , even though I didn't have any instruments with me I was able to sit in on bass for a bit. I may have been a little rusty on that, but that jam has inspired me to play more guitar lately, and more bluegrass, so it was fun.

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