Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Sunday. The back stretch. The last leg. The Final Countdown. Sleepy morning. Sunshiny day. Perfection.
The day for gospel sets and river floats and tying a huge party-shaped ribbon around the last day of one of the “bestest festests” on our planet. The energy was ebullient and bubbly that day, the weather had been getting all the more perfect all weekend culminating in a day just ripe for music, merriment, and more, more, more blessed bluegrass all up in our business! This was a huge day of music…I suppose I had better get to telling you about it.
Grand Ole’ Ditch
Nothing like Cumberland’s own to get things going on a Sunday, right? I was really excited to see these fellas tear up the Potomac Stage once again, and with good reason. The lads kicked things off with a rather fine “Graham Central Station” instrumental which was the perfect way to get things going on such a lovely Sunday. Then it was time for a little string song with “Blue Light” — “I’m going down to that blue light, where the music plays all night”. Love it. Maybe they should consider getting blue lights to mark out the Late Night shows at DelFest? And who doesn’t love a birthday? Well nine-year-old Meg in the crowd received a special dedication of “Allegany Sun” (written by Matt Hamilton of Virginia) for just such an occasion. And she was a lucky lady given how great it was. Definitely one of my favorite songs of the set. Then things got a little rock’n’rolly with “Roll with the Punches” followed by the mysterious and minor-run-laden “Dark Rider”. Further on down the set was a sweet and lively guitar tune named for one of the instruments in the band, “79-28”. One doesn’t often get a tune inspired by and named for an instrument played on that very instrument, to be sure. Fiddlin’ Ray stepped up to the fore to saw out a hot fiddle tune named “Dragon’s Breath” for us next and it was superb. Great interplay between the other instruments and the fiddle. It was starting to feel more like “DeadFest” than DelFest given all the amazing Dead covers we’d been getting thus far. And Grand Ole’ Ditch wasn’t going to disappoint, instead giving us a fantastic and mellow “Candyman”. To the utter delight of those assembled, of course. What a weekend for the Dead and bluegrass! (And it wasn’t done yet, but more on that later.) The boys continued later with a slow, swung “Baby Jane” followed by a hopping “Cabins in the Laurel”. Time for some dancing anyone? With this band, you’re pretty much assured to be on your feet and romping around — and you’ll be in great company. And this “Cabins” had us all moving merrily about. Keeping that energy high, the Ditch boys finished up with a simmering “Foolish Pride”. Wowsers, what a set! So glad to have caught these fellas this year at DelFest. Very much looking forward to seeing them again soon! Colorado tour, mayhaps?
Due to some interview scheduling concerns I missed the first part of Hot Rize’s set, more’s the pity. However, I will talk about what I did see since it is Hot Rize and since they are incredible. You know. As I walked up to the Main Stage, the four gents based in Colorado were singing their gospel song, “The Way”, from their new album which features some of that pitch-perfect four-part harmony for which this band is renowned. That is one of the most rewarding aspects of this genre, in my opinion: the widespread occurrence of really good solo and harmony singing. Simply put, bluegrass music has a wealth of great voices that know how to be used properly. And it shows. And we are thankful. So thankful…especially for bands like Hot Rize. Taking a crowd request, Tim O’Brien stepped up to sing “99 Years” next and they, of course, nailed it. Point of interest: Pete’s banjo didn’t show for the festival so Pappy of Cabinet lent Pete his own banjo to play. Pretty nice, right? And Pete most assuredly did Pappy’s instrument proud. I love those little ins-and-outs stories from fests like this one. One of my very favorite Hot Rize songs was up next, “Blue is Fallin’”, a brutally honest testimonial (not sure if it is Tim’s or not) about what I surmise is either clinical depression or bipolar depression. From my own understanding of these diseases, this song hits the nail right on the head. Either way, it is an emotional, intense song and I just love it and am so glad they played it. At the end of the set, Del and Ronnie were invited out to sing a Bill Monroe ditty with the boys which was pretty much traditional bluegrass heaven for all of us. Sad that I missed so much of the show but ecstatic that I got to see any at all, it was time to get ready for more music with Lake Street Dive.
Lake Street Dive
Admittedly, this was my first time seeing this band, although I had heard a lot of hype from a great many friends. I was looking forward to seeing if they hype held up (not that I doubted it would). It did. Certainly the most rock sound of the bands at the fest this year and with unique instrumentation, this group centers around the incredible vocal talent and skill of their front lady, Rachael Price. The showmanship was akin to some of the bluegrass groups in attendance, though, with different members moving around the stage to join others or to gather in close ensembles. While I don’t know much of their original music (a situation I tend to fix), some of the recognizable covers were quite enjoyable. Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” was one of these. A lighter version of the song with some nice trumpet, Rachael also nailed down the iconic vocals in fine fashion. Later it was Van Halen’s “Jump” and, even though we lacked the guitar solos we crave from the original, I’d have to say her version beat out David Lee Roth’s. An unexpected cover to be sure. Their final song was one of theirs, “You Go Down Smooth”, and it was off-the-chain good. Between the great ensemble sound of the instrumentalists to Miss Price’s trademark voice, it was a fine ending to a standout set at DelFest 8. Again, I have to say how much I am looking forward to following yet another band.
Salmon was meant for this festival, no doubts there. Spanning myriad genres but still able to throw down some mean bluegrass, the boys from Leftover came out swinging on the Main Stage with Hartford’s “Up on the Hill Where They Do they Boogie” (a favorite of mine and of, well, just about everyone out there). Helluva good way to start things out for us! Drew on vocals for “Down in the Hollow” came next and it was just fast pickin’ epitomized. Hot damn is this band good! Listening to my voice notes again was just giving me chills. Oh, and can Bill Payne play those keys or what? Damn, sir! Great musical addition to the band to be very sure. “Sometimes a River” followed and then Del joined the fellas (to a round of “Del! Del! Del!” chants) for one fantastic “Midnight Blues”. Nothing whatsoever like having our good ol’ Pappy Del lend that signature voice of his to an old favorite. Bill Payne’s song “Way Down Under” featured a particularly wonderful Andy Thorn solo on banjo, Payne’s piano a perfect backdrop. Later in the set the lighthearted “Liza” lit up the stages and our hearts alike. Any chance to see Vince being silly, being amazing, being Vince…well, that, my friends is a mitzvah. “…I’d swim a hot tub, I’d climb a tree.” Love it. Just as much as I love my native Colorado, subject of the subsequent “High Country”. I mean, who doesn’t want to be in the high country all day? We all did there in Cumberland at that moment, I can assure you. A truly special moment was in store when Tim O’Brien (Hot Rize) joined Salmon for a badass rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Man Gave Names to All the Animals”, nine-and-a-half minutes of musical weirdness and genius and enjoyment all rolled into one. And it was top notch I tell you. Top notch! Tim stayed up there, thankfully, for a galloping funhouse of “Let’s Give a Party” which dumped massive amounts of ants in our pants and hurried us along towards the end of the set with a hot and lengthy 12:21 “Aquatic Hitchhiker”. “Rag Mama Rag” was the closer of this lovely Leftover show and the boys certainly brought it to the end. Del yeah for Sunday sets like this one!! Del yeah for Leftover Salmon!!
The Del McCoury Band
Well, here it was, the keystone of the musical weekend: Del and the boys’ Sunday Main Stage hootenanny, a set the grand majority had been anticipating the entirety of the festival. The weather was delightful as the evening descended upon us, the slowly blanketing darkness punctuated by solitary stars poking through, one lazily after another. A prime setting for a little bluegrass music, Del McCoury style. “Loneliness and Desperation” started things off on a bluer foot than one might expect, however, little things like Jason Carter’s stellar fiddling or Del’s emblematic voice brought all our spirits far above the lyrics. Slowing things down a bit next with “Count Me Out” the band exhibited some of those perfect harmonies for which they are so well known, always a treat and one of the better aspects of bluegrass music, in my opinion. They wasted no time ramping things back up again to a wicked clip with “Bluegrass Breakdown”, the first bluegrass instrumental ever, written by Bill Monroe who had Scruggs pick it out for him. And, man, did Del and his fine fellows break it down! I imagine they took it at a slightly faster pace than did Scruggs, however, I haven’t done my research to find a recording so the jury will have to be out on that for awhile longer. How many times will I mention the musical ability of these men? How many times could possibly be too many? If you even remotely like good music, hell, even if you hate good music for some reason, I believe that you would be wholly blown away by watching these gents practice their art together. Ronnie stepped up to the mic for the loving, mournful “Body and Soul” and from the first notes he sang, the crowd erupted with appreciation, loving what they heard. And how couldn’t they? The man has one hell of a bluegrass voice. Simply said. Then it was time for some branding-iron hot banjo pickin’ from Rob during an instrumental he led followed by “This Kind of Life” and then a fiddle tune headed up by none other than Mr. Jason Carter. Talk about a deluge of delicious string band delights!! After that it was the song that helped win Del his Grammy, “The Streets of Baltimore” — Del sounded tremendous on the vocals and the fellas backed him with style. Later in the set was the ballad of a wicked man, “Eli Renfro” — “can’t you hear, can’t you hear?” The crowd surely heard a great version of this one. “Mountain Song” had a few forgotten lyrics, but who cares? As Del said, they make “good fill break[s]” — who am I to argue with him? Woody Guthrie’s “The New York Trains” came after, a song Guthrie wrote on his very first day in New York City about his impressions of life there, et al. As usual, a Del Band show is as educational as it is entertaining and inspiring and happy-making. Time for a love song at last: “You Took Me In Out of The Rain”, a duet for Del and Ronnie that had the audience clapping along from the start. Always nice to hear a song about love that goes right in this genre, right? True to form later in the set was the gospel corner with “Get Down on Your Knees and Pray” featuring some fantastic vocals and harmonies from the entire band. Truly great stuff…love when they go gospel. This was followed by a furious, frenetic, freakishly fast “White House Blues” — just when you think you’ve seen these guys play at their fastest yet, they go and do something like this. Not an errant note in the bunch and I must have clocked them at a billion notes a minute. Give or take. Lots and lots and, seriously, lots of them that’s for sure. And just as fast as it had begun it was over and time for Roosevelt Collier to join in on pedal steel and Evan McCoury on guitar (whom Del said he rarely brings on stage since he such a good guitar player) for Shawn Camp’s (Earls of Leicester) “My Love Will Not Change”. The additions of Collier and the younger McCoury were, in a word, wonderful. Such a wall of sweet, sweet sound rolling down from the stage. A very nice way to end an extremely nice show. But, wait…there’s more! An encore, you say? How about a little “Smoking Gun”? Just like that coffee of yore: good to the last drop. Just like this show, just like this show. Thanks for another magnificent one, Mr. McCoury, and many thanks to your marvelous band! And thanks for another stupendous DelFest!
Late Night - The Jeff Austin Band - The Travelin’ McCourys
Here it was, the last of the late nights and what a freakin’ line-up. After the J.A.B. explosion on the Main Stage we were all poised and ready for some more of that same magic here after midnight. And we let it all hang out dancing to Jeff and his merry musickers as they gave us frenetic, funky fast pickin’, Austin-style. A mellowish “Screen Door” kicked things off with a long, dreamy, entrancing jam at the end which eventually led into “Shake Me Up” for a combined total of almost a half hour’s worth of music. Super, my friends. Just super. Jeff reminded us all that the fest wasn’t over yet as he led into “Simple Truth”. Of course, he also reminded us about work the next week. Thanks a bunch, Jeff. But, really, thanks a bunch for such good music all weekend. The second-to-last song of the set was a speedy, rifle’s bullet of a “Sideshow Blues” complete with a DelFest-related soliloquy from Jeff about how we should all form a community that lives on the Allegany grounds all year long. Sounds like a good idea to me! The closer for J.A.B. was a lengthy and lovely “King Ebenezer” weighing in at 27:07. A milder-than-expected but still incredibly good late night set from Jeff and company. Absolutely put us all in the mood for some Travelin’ McCourys ready take the stage next. Now was the time for some severely lightning-fast pickin’ to end this festival for good and for right! The boys fired up the sizzling griddle of grass music with a quickly played quick “Quicksburg Rendezvous”, although I hardly remember anything about it since I was dancing so much. This gave way to Ronnie on vocals for the despairing “Deeper Shade of Blue”. It was straight bluegrass bullet train through Jason Carter singing “I’m Southbound” (which contained a stellar set of solos from Ronnie, Rob, Jason, and Cody) and “Old Train” and then slowing things up for “Delia’s Gone”. A fast and fun “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” came and kicked the fog from anyone’s brain at that wee hour in the morning and we were all glad for it. Later on in the set we got one of my favorite songs by this crew: “Messed Up Just Right”. What can I say? I like songs with clever lyrics. Oh, and songs that are really good and also sung by Alan Bartram. But hey, I can be particular sometimes. Like how this song was particularly good that late night. And then, hey, they threw down “Cumberland Blues” once more because someone had asked them to. And, truth be told, it was better this time around. More polished. And that would make sense. Hell, I was just glad to be getting it again. For the last four songs of the night the McCourys had Roosevelt Collier sit in to provide some of that crazy steel slide action of his. The first song of this collaboration was “One Way Rider” followed by a 10:56 “Loser” — Grateful Dead at DelFest 8 until the bitter end!! Again, “Loser” was improved over the night before and I was very, very grateful to be getting it, believe-you-me. Their final song and the final song of DelFest 8 was an old Lee Boys number with Roosevelt providing some amazing train sound effects on his slide. Over fifteen minutes later and we were all still wondering what the heck just happened to us, both that set and that night and that weekend altogether. Well, I know what happened for me: the best DelFest yet. Now, granted, I have only been to two, but this one was so damn wonderful that it guaranteed my place at next year’s DF (as if that were really necessary). Just great for me to be able to relate such good information and good news to you guys again this year. Already looking forward to doing the same next year! Thanks for reading everyone…hope you enjoyed!