DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

     DelFest 9 is being lauded by many as the best one yet.  And who am I to argue that point?  From where I stood at the end of things on Memorial Day, I know that I’d seen just crazy amounts of seriously wonderful music, enjoyed countless magical moments under the night sky over Cumberland, basked in the warm friendship of my family and people, and thrilled myself to the core in only the way that bluegrass can thrill.  This was only my third DelFest, however, I’d certainly say it was the best I’d been to yet.  But this shouldn’t be surprising to read knowing that the ever-compassionate and caring Del McCoury family was at the heart of the entire affair and had been since its inception almost 10 years ago (next year will be DelFest’s 10th Anniversary year).  Even through the rains and the steamy heat that followed, spirits were never dampened whatsoever, people choosing to dance in the downpour rather than shake their fists in frustration or anger.  So many little instances of merriment and grace surmounting stormy skies and muddy fields.  Humanity at its finer points.  And that ubiquitous DelFest grin attached so firmly to everyone’s face…a permanent fixture throughout the weekend and one that is very contagious.  That’s one of the things I love about DelFest; as a rule, people come with a very simple agenda:  listen to great bluegrass music, have fun doing so, enjoy with friends, repeat.  It’s as easy as that.  Doesn’t sound so bad, right?  Well, it isn’t by a long shot.  Seriously good times with seriously fantastic music.  DelFest in a nutshell.  And what a bunch of nuts are we, right?  Exactly.  But enough idle banter from me, you came here to read about some music, am I correct?  Why don’t we get to it, then?  Excelsior!

Thursday Highlights

The Del McCoury Band - Sound Check

     The rain was falling gently on the covered heads and umbrellas of the crowd as Del and his band of musical merrymakers took to the main stage for their traditional sound check performance.  It made for a lovely spectacle to view and Del thought so, too!  Their first song for us was apropos to be sure:  “Rain Please Go Away”.  Perfect and we all loved it.  Jason Carter had a hot little fiddle solo towards the beginning that got our feet tapping in quick time, readying ourselves for an entire weekend of doing the very same thing.  And there we went!!  Ronnie and Rob grabbed a little solo time themselves as the song progressed, mandolin and banjo, respectively, sparkling in the hands of a master.  Del, of course, sounded magnificent on the vocals, that thumbprint-unique voice so perfectly suited to his chosen genre of music.  Needless to say we were all off to a very, very good start.  Portents of good things to come?  You had best believe that was the truth, bought and sold.  Next in was a big DelFest surprise for all of us as Del called a gentleman named Mike to the stage for something very special.  Mike greeted us all from themicrophone, gave us a big “Del Yeah!!”, and then proceeded to invite his girlfriend, Therese, out to join him.  At which time, he dropped to a knee, and asked that oh-so-important question, ring in hand.  To which she said “yes” of course!  Right there in front of Del and the rest of us.  It was an incredibly sweet and tender moment which made DelFest instantly all the more special.  Del and band followed this with a bit of a wink and nudge humor with “Good Man Like Me”.  But why take my word for any of this when we happen to have it right here for you? 

Pretty wonderful, no?  I had the opportunity later in the weekend of meeting Therese and Mike.  Absolutely delightful couple.  I wish them nothing but a lifetime of happiness and joy together.  “If You’ve Got the Money Honey” was a perfect follow-up to “Good Man” and Del, again, was in fine vocal form, hitting those high notes with ease and precision to the absolute delight of the crowd.  The band was sounding and marvelous as ever, too.  Which is always a treat of the highest order.  From Jason on fiddle to Ronnie on mando to Robbie on banjo and round and back again, you always get a smattering to a smorgasbord of super hot, wildly well-played bluegrass music.  Through and through.  And when you have to very likes of Alan Bartram on bass, you never need worry about your musical foundation.  That man knows his bass thoroughly, there can be no doubt.  Next up that afternoon was “Ocean of Diamonds”, a tender waltz dedicated to devotion featuring an exquisitely lovely mandolin solo from Ronnie McCoury.  There is nothing like the look of utter pride and love on Del’s face each time he watches one of his sons sing or play.  Truly it is priceless and paternal and perfect.  That man really is love, you know?  Easy to describe him as such, to be sure.  Later down the set they played a “scary song” according to Del, “Eli Renfro”, a story of murder and hanging.  It certainly had a dark tale to tell alongside the brighter seeming instrumentals of the piece.  Another gorgeous one, of course, in truth.   So many good highlights already and we were just at the very beginning of DelFest 9!!  How just plain wonderfully wonderful!!  And so much incredible music already thanks to The Del McCoury Band!!  Bravi, gentlemen, for one heck of a kickstart to another stupendous weekend!    

The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

Elephant Revival

     We entered the main stage area a tad late for Elephant Revival’s set, having raced back from our campsite after a gear change.  But we were ready when we got there for that special brand of string band music that only Elephant can deliver.  Bonnie Paine’s voice greeted us immediately upon entry, her siren song calling us into the mix of people and music once more with some mesmerizing fiddle and mando accompanying.  Always a pleasure to be graced with the sweet sonorous texture of Elephant Revival’s playing.  It’s like a comfortable, soft blanket wrapped around the shoulders on a frosty winter’s eve.  Bridget Law kicked off a slow and steady fiddle tune next for us in the form of “The Pasture” from their album These Changing Skies.  I love the intense and mellow drive of this tune, as the energy builds throughout the band as it progresses.  Bridget Law being one of the finest fiddle players in the business right now, of course, and her playing always a gift to behold.  And this is a band with a whole lot of gifts, mind you.  “Sing to the Mountain” followed, just a beauty of a song.  This one features some of those singular and superb vocal harmonies that Elephant has the market a bit cornered on.  Really incredible blend here and quite easy on the ear, no doubt.  “Go and sing to the mountain, go and sing to the moon.”  At which point we all howled at the moon, like you do.  Of course.  This was DelFest after all!  What a set so far!  I’d howl just for more great music from this band.  (And think I did do just that.)  Jason Carter joined the band on “The Garden” which followed “Sing to the Mountain”.  This one is a sweet and somewhat mysterious song which was only augmented in a beautiful way by Jason’s fiddle playing.  Especially when in duet alongside Bridget.  Really gorgeous stuff going on there — magnificent!  The vocal harmonies between Bonnie, Bridget, and Daniel Rodriguez were especially enchanting in this one.  Such incredibly good music.  Many of the band’s friends from Fruition came out for the following song, the raucous and energetic “Rogue River”.  The ensuing wall of tight vocal harmonies that issued forth from the speakers was truly something to witness.  Something musically mystical and masterful.  And fun as anything you’ve known.  Ah, the power of good music!  And let’s not forget the percussion breakdowns throughout as well…talk about your dancin’ music!  What’s not to just adore about this band?  Well-written, well-executed music by supremely talented and skilled individuals, all virtuosi on their chosen instruments.  And so much heart and feeling!  As in pretty much all the feels, right?  So grateful that Elephant Revival was with us at DelFest 9 — what a treat and pleasure.  Thanks so much to the band and their people for another incredible time!!  PS - Here is a quick video we caught of “Single Beds Are Made for One” — please enjoy!! 

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Yonder Mountain String Band

     Main stage.  Main event.  Thursday night.  Yonder.  Let’s do this.  And we were off into the night on the YMSB train with “Only a Northern Song” driving away from the station at full speed.  Tight vocal harmonies and plenty of good ol’ fashioned bluegrass instrumental work were the entrees du jour that evening for us all and we were hungry for as much great music as we could hold.  Allie Kral busted out some pretty kick ass fiddle alongside Jake Jolliff’s mandolin madness as they all jammed this one out, the both of them taking some sweet solo spots on it as well.  Those two have really gelled in this band, haven’t they?  The ensemble sound has has never been better since their induction into the group. Truly.  And “Northern Song” — always a big, lengthy, jammy start to a Yonder show, right?  And that’s what this one was.  Bang!  “Fingerprint” followed next with Dave Johnston at the mic for the vocals.  This one was a bit gritty and dirty in that good, good way.  I like seeing that attitude in Yonder’s playing.  And everyone was on point with their solos as usual — reliably great musical acumen, that’s what a person should expect from YMSB.  And get, in spades.  We were able to grab a recording of their next number, “Looking Back Over My Shoulder”, for your viewing enjoyment.  Hope you dig! 

Classic.  And well done!  Love that song.  Jake took to the microphone for the following song, a quick and grassed-up version of America’s “Sister Golden Hair”, as song that is fast becoming one of their new standards.  Fast drivin’ to be sure, this one sizzles along at a hopping pace.  Lots of mighty fine fiddle playing from Allie once again.  Boy can that lady saw away on her instrument!  Jolliff’s own solo was pretty nasty good itself, lots of effects coming out the speakers at us, more of that gritty stuff we love so much.  Allie was up to the mic a bit later in the set for “Love Before You Can’t” flexing those pretty pipes of hers.  She’s really come to own this song and it is just lovely.  This is one of those places where things just all shine in all the right ways.  Light and lilting ensemble sound from the band to accompany — fantastic.  Just an all-around pleasant song.  Brava, Miss Kral!  They asked Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter out to play with them for a spell as we headed back to camp to grab a bit warmer clothing before late night, the dulcet tones of guest mando and fiddle drifting out over the assembled multitude.  Another extremely fine concert experience at the deft hands of the Yonder Mountain String Band.  A big thanks to all who helped put this show on.  Talk about your headlining, right?  Lovely!

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

Late Night - Fruition - The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm

     Hot damn, it was Fruition time!  And late night to boot!!  How grateful were we??  Plenty durn grateful, believe-you-me.  Plus we had conducted a super fun and really informative interview with Mimi Naja just that afternoon.  It would be cool to see her play after that.  Arriving just a scootch late, we entered the late night pavilion to “And There She Was” a current and long-standing favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  So groovy, so funky, so disco resurgence.  So perfect.  And SO catchy.  Wow.  I dare you to try to get that song out of your head once it’s there.  Bravo, Kellen Asebroek.  That’s all I have to say.  Oh, well, and bravi to the rest of the band, of course.  What a way to make an entrance!  Perfect late night mind and soul food.  Truly.  Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” is another huge stand out of the set.  Crazy good cover of a song I love.  And they sounded just baller, my friends.  But, then again, this is Fruition we’re talking about, right?  They always sound baller.  Am I right?  Jay Cobb Anderson took to the mic for the lead on “Fire” only to be joined in duet by Mimi Naja.  This one is a white hot Tilt-a-Whirl of madcap musical merriment.  And with Allie Kral guesting in on fiddle?  Forget about it.  It really just doesn’t get much better than that.  Especially when the band apparently decides to just rock the ever living everything out of the song and gets nasty to the bone with it in a super dirty awesome breakdown.  Fan-freakin-tastic!  A little later in their set we snagged a video of “Above the Line” so that you could check a bit of the late night vibe out for yourself.  Please enjoy! 

“Labor of Love”, the title track of the new album, was next in line, sounding just about album perfect and amazing.  A bit later they invited Bonnie and Daniel from Elephant out to jam a number with them and then Jeremy Garrett from The Infamous Stringdusters not long after.  Talk about your all-star guests!  And talk about your hella good times at the hands of Fruition.  Again.  Only to be thrust into the waiting clutches of The Infamous Stringdusters!!  Their good friend Nicki Bluhm was there to join them for this set which I was eager to hear live, never having heard this collaboration in person before.  And what a group to follow Fruition’s energy!  Amazing vocal harmonies and supremely great instrumental skills all rolled into one incredibly talented band.  What a force!  “Run to Heaven” was the first song they performed with Nicki that night and here is the precise way things went down for you: 

Wowsers, what a formidable combination!  Bravi to one and all for that one!  Later on we got the soulful “A Little Too Late to Die Young” with Nicki still on lead vocals, Travis Book backing her up.  A lot of big energy from this song.  Really enjoyed it, especially in a late night groove.  Mimi and Tyler Thompson from Fruition came out on stage to join the boys for a super mellow “Sitting on Top of the World” bringing their special blend to the situation.  Nicki also rejoined things to croon to us all once again.  Please no, anything but that.  Yeah, right.  How awesome was this?  Great interplay between Andy Hall and Mimi, too.  Really fun to watch and even better to hear.  Such wonderful music and so late at night.  How nice.  The massive breakdown at the end of this song had us all stomping and moving and having a ball as the tempo switched to double overtime.  Strings a-twanging left and right as the whole pavilion bopped along to this musical wonderment.  Kellen joined in the assembled group for some fun with a Travis Book-led “Cripple Creek” for us.  The Band — Del Yeah!!  What a cover to pick.  All of us were singing along as well we should be:  one of the absolute classics.  Another perfect choice for late night.  Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was another fine standout as was the closer, The Dead’s “Not Fade Away” with Nicki Bluhm once more.  What a way to end things late night at DelFest the first night.  Only Thursday!!  Can you believe it?  There is so much more of DelFest to relate to you, my friends!  And we’ve already been through so much incredible music.  Wow, are you ready for it?  Ready for more?

Fruition

Fruition

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

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Stay tuned for the remaining days of DelFest, everyone!!  More to come!!

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