DelFest 8

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker


So, when you reach the DelFest halfway point of Saturday morning, when you emerge from your shelter-of-choice and look up at the green mountains and gray bluffs and the warm, friendly sun set in the bluest of blue skies, when you find yourself at that very moment, you know you are onto something good.  Damn good.  Like all the damn good music you’ve already heard.  Like all the damn good music you’re still yet to hear.  Like all the damn good fun you’ve had and are having and will continue to have! Del yeah!  You see?  It’s all about the gratitude list and how you choose to access it…is DelFest on your gratitude list?  It should be.

Dre and the DelFest Collective

For the first music of the day, we headed over to the Music Hall to check out Dre and the DelFest Collective.  This rotating band comprised of DelFest’s Who’s Who is headed up by Dre, a lovely lady with a lovely voice and a fine manner of bringing out the best in an ensemble of friends.  For this show?  Friends like, oh, Jason Carter and Sierra Hull, for instance.  And Ronnie and Rob McCoury.  And many others.  Some particularly jazzy and funky numbers allowed Sierra to showcase some excellent skills on the octave mandolin (an Irish bouzouki player myself, I was happy to see one of the “big mandos” up there) and Jason to do his usual, simply stunning thing on the fiddle.  I certainly found myself a quick new fan of Dre and her accomplices.  And what a nice person, to boot!  Very much looking forward to seeing them again next year, or even touring?  Ahem!  Dre? 

Del and Dawg

The grand old men of bluegrass music.  Two venerated veterans of strings and all things grassy and blue when it comes to music and life, this show is one not to be missed.  One should endeavor to never pass up a chance to see either of these gents and together, what a presence.  These monumental gentlemen chose to open with “Have a Feast Here Tonight” (or “Rabbit in the Log”), a crowd pleaser from the first licks Grisman laid down.  There is certainly something to be said for the caliber of their harmonies, Del’s tenor over the top of Dawg’s baritone:  two men who have been singing, and singing together, for a long time.  Fifty-two years they’ve known each other if memory serves me correctly.  And it shows all over their musical interaction.  The sad and sorrowful “Shackles and Chains” followed, allowing for a bit of crooning from the two fellows on stage. A sprightly little Grisman mandolin tune led us to “A Man of Constant Sorrow” which, thanks to a certain unnamed movie, will always be a pleaser of the crowds.  And why not?  Especially when Del and Dawg do it up so right!  And then Grisman on vocals for a bit of humor with “I’m My Own Grandpa” — I’ve loved that song since a child.  Always makes me smile and laugh…and Grisman did a great job of making it happen again.  The remainder of the set finished very strongly with some Gospel influence and more grass — a lovely time.  Perfect preparation for a little Jeff Austin Band to come…

Jeff Austin Band

 What intro does this Jeffgrass powerhouse recently unleashed upon all of us really need?  None, really.  Because early into the set “15 Steps” was melting faces, including that of Jeff Austin, apparently.  I enjoy that I keep seeing this band wherever I go:  each time they are that much tighter, that much more polished.  I shudder to think how incredible this band will be in five years’ time.  Snagging another selection from his recent album, the light and playful “Fiddling Around” was next.  Definitely dig that song quite a bit and J.A.B. did it quite a justice live that day.  Jeff dedicated this next song to the McCoury Family and all the rest of us there gathered:  “The Promised Land”.  It was a sweet and heartfelt dedication from a man who was visibly grateful to be at DelFest doing his thing for us with his new band of music mercenaries.  And they took that gratitude and spun it around, got loose and funky, and turned it into one hell of a “Ragdoll” peeping in our window shades. I really cannot express in words alone how good the music and musicianship was during this set.  I’ve heard many people say this was one of their very favorites.  And so I’ll share a small piece of it with you here:  J.A.B. Main Stage  See?  Pretty damned incredibly good, right?  That’s how I’d sum up the entire show:  pretty damned incredibly good.  Again I wonder at where they will be in a few years.  Can’t wait to see!

The Travelin’ McCourys

Saturday night, Main Stage, McCourys.  Go!  Who at this festival wasn’t looking forward to this set?  I can’t imagine a single soul.  Straight into it was a fast pickin’ “Walk Out in the Rain” featuring everybody being incredible throughout the entire song, not to mention Ronnie’s crystal vocals and the always perfect backing harmonies.  Next featured some handsome vocals from the handsome fiddler known as Jason Carter with “Lonesome, Ornery, and Mean”.  It is always hard to know which jam to mention and even what to say sometimes.  The level of performance on that stage from individual to ensemble to the magic of it all, well, it is indescribably fine and tuned and completely entrancing.  Precisely the way music should be, just like they way they threw down on that last song.  Swinging the hammer, “The Shake” featuring Alan Bartram on the mic came next and went into a rollicking jam-filled “Cumberland Blues” to the delight of the entire crowd, Grateful Dead nods always appreciated, but of course.  Del was on the side stage for all of “Cumberland” and the smile on his face told the story of every face in the audience — it was a marvelously good version of this song with some really interesting and “non-traditional” harmonies as well as a simmering breakdown at the end.  As to be expected. However, before I go any further, I have to  address the dress of the band.  Not in a bad way, to the contrary.  These fellows came out looking snappy, snazzy, and ready to blow some minds with miraculous music.  Ronnie’s jacket almost made him up as a proud peacock, Alan was in a “good guy’s” white jacket juxtaposed to the blacker outfits of Jason and Ronnie and Cody.  They all looked fantastic.  As well they should.   Next up was “I Live on a Battlefield”, a Ronnie-led number with soul and heart.  It is a current favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  And it has every right to be — this song his the hotness.  Not sure I really need to say much more about it.  Oh, except the harmonies.  Those delectable, sharp, sonorous harmonies.  Well done, fellas.  I really like the next song because of the funky, funky chord progression throughout. The motive is really moving and anchors the piece from section to section.  This song in question, “What’s the Difference”, featured Jason Carter on vocals and Ronnie on some particularly fine mando work in the mid regions of the piece.  Joe Craven joined the boys for a “Lil Samba” playing the bongos and peppering in some sweet vocal percussion (oh, Joe Craven, you) and he remained for the McCourys’ tribute to the late B.B. King with “The Thrill Is Gone”.  Evan McCoury, Ronnie’s son, also joined in for “The Thrill”.  Man can that kid play.  Wow.  You should have seen Ronnie’s face while Evan played:  pure proud papa.  Grinning from ear-to-ear, just like his own daddy.  Bartram’s “Rocky Road Blues” followed, a swinging, bouncing little number that had a blue-ribbon fiddle solo from Jason.  Later on Del came out on stage to join his sons and friends on vocals for Ronnie’s “On the Lonesome Wind” and then into wicked fast pickin’ version of “Shady Grove”.  Impossible to follow the hands and the bow on stage as they plied their instruments impossibly fast to eke out impossibly good music from them.  Need high speed camera equipment.  For starters.  Finally the second-to-last selection of the evening was “Loser” by the Grateful Dead, which came with a nice story about Jerry Garcia’s thoughts on Del McCoury.  Trust me, they were good.  OK, I’ll tell you.  Jerry said of Del that his vision of the Bluegrass Boys and their music was of Del and his guitar.  Pretty neat, right?  As good a version that I’ve heard of this classic known by heart to all watching up at the stage, with Ronnie on electric mandolin.  Suffice it to say, it was a fair deal for all.  Many thanks to the band for throwing us all such a great gift.  Last but certainly not least came the truckin’ “Travellin’” a sort of signature song for this fiery hot ensemble of insane, incredible music made incarnate.  A stomping down great end to a mind-twisting show.  The questions remain…how do they play all those notes?  So many notes…  What a show, what a way to close out Saturday at DelFest.  Thanks to the McCourys!

1 Comment