Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
The Sam Bush Band
Back at the main stage at DelFest. Precisely where I wanted to be. After a day already full of incredibly wonderful bluegrass music it was time to soak in a little of the Sam Bush Band and their special brand of the same. Walking towards the front of the crowd we were greeted with the sounds of “On the Road”, Scott Vestal’s lead in on banjo like an old friend taking you to something amazing. And then Sam starts in on the vocals and, just like that, we were off to another incredible ride through a fine set of grass. A song filled with advice from a life spent long on the road, it was a pretty perfect way to get things going. And talk about a band just filled with phenomenal musicians. Always means you get some seriously kick ass bluegrass as a result, Sam Bush Band style. From Scott on banjo to Stephen Mougin on guitar to Sam on mando and back around again, there was so much goodness going on in this number. Mandolin was the name of the game introducing the next song up, “Play By Your Own Rules”. Yet more advice coming down from Uncle Sammy, I think we’d all love to play by our own rules a bit more. Some lovely duet work between Sam and Stephen in between verses — I do so love the sound of this band. The King of Telluride certainly doesn’t disappoint. Then it was all time for us to be “Riding That Bluegrass Train” apparently. And why not? All aboard, in my opinion. And what a ride it was with Sam at the controls! Yet another bluegrass classic played to the nth degree. Man, do these guys always put on a fantastic show! Sammy thrashed out some mean mando for us during this one showcasing his singular skills. However, Mougin and Vestal were not to be outdone, throwing down some serious stylings of their own on guitar and banjo respectively. A round robin of skill and talent this continued for some time, man to man to man until Sam launched back into the vocals and kept that train a-rollin’. A personal favorite of mine was next in line that set and, lucky for all of us, we got it on video for you. Hope you enjoy “They’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” as much as we did!
Love that song! And how can’t you, right? I mean, it’s Sam we’re talking about!! Following “They’re Gonna Miss Me” we got a supremely enjoyable “One More Love Song” and then some quick pickin’ in the form of “Hard Hearted”, Mougin and Vestal tearing it up on their respective instruments. Nothing like being caught up in that singular style of bluegrass attributed to Sam and his band — they really take you places with their music, to other times and through the stories of their songs. The completely entrancing instrumental “Greenbrier” was next in line, with each member of the band shining through on their chosen instrument like a miniature star, creating a fabric and musical landscape so easy on the ears and soul. Truly, each of these gentlemen is a virtuoso in his own right and that is most readily apparent in jams like “Greenbrier”. Lengthy solos from Vestal, Mougin, and Bush made for an even more robust piece of music for our senses of hearing to savor as we all danced and swayed like the trees dancing in the wind all around. Goodness!! And Todd Parks laying down that bass line like a champ all set long. Hells yeah. “Midnight on the Stormy Deep” saw Del, himself, come join Sam and band for a song from “the old country”. What a vocal duet between McCoury and Bush! Just lovely!! Later on down the set Sammy gave us his version of “Great Balls of Fire”, one of which I am sure that Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud. I’ve heard Sam do this a few times before and I just love the energy he brings to it and the energy that it brings to a setlist. Not that a Sam Bush Band setlist is usually lacking in energy — just the opposite. Finally, they closed their set down a bit later on by asking Ronnie McCoury to come and join them on stage for Bob Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up”. Ronnie remarked as he got situated that he was getting to “play with [his] hero” to which Sam Bush replied, “is David Grisman here?” We all got a nice laugh out of that one. Well-played, Sammy. Well-played. And “When You Gonna Wake Up” was well-played also…finishing things off with a little rock’n’roll, McCoury in support. A good message to end their show with as well, methinks. Music certainly exists to make us think from time to time as well as entertain. Sam, apparently, thinks the same way. Never a bad time with Mr. Bush and his baller ass band and this was certainly no exception. So many thanks to the man and band for so much wonderful music, as always. Sure was making me look forward to Telluride!!
As the darkening evening air descended around us that Saturday night, we all made our way up to the main stage again for some of that excellent foot-tappin’ Americana string band music that only Railroad Earth can serve up. The setting was just perfect for more great music and we all knew that RRE wouldn’t disappoint. They launched into the easy-going “Storms” to get things started off right for us. The instrumental opening grew steadily to life and then Todd Sheaffer’s voice emanated from the speakers in soft waves of comfort and beauty. It’s like having a favorite uncle sing you gently through life. And, of course, Tim Carbone’s fiddle, always there for you akin to an arm around the shoulder made of the purest and most gorgeous musical texture. John Skehan then added his own brand of lovely to the mix on mandolin, richening the entire piece further. An auspicious beginning to be sure, my friends. Carey Harmon laid down a big, big beat on the drums as introduction to “Seven Story Mountain” which followed “Storms”. Todd thanked us all over the mic as the song built and built relaying that it was a pleasure to be at DelFest. I was very much inclined to agree with him. They continued to build and flesh things out for several minutes in anticipation of Todd’s vocal entrance. Makes for quite the satisfying musical experience. And, throughout, that metronomic rhythm from Carey. Magnificent, thus far. And only getting better. I am kind of biased towards the next song they played given where I live, however, that does not negate how good the song really is. Upbeat and filled with great banjo from Andy Goessling from the very beginning, “Colorado” speaks to one of my favorite times in my favorite state, summertime in Colorado. Hard to hate a song about such bright subjects, right? In fact, you down right fall in love with it. Carbone’s solo in the middle was like a big, fresh breath only to be answered by Skehan on mando, laying down his own fine and extensive solo work. And then they traded back again, a round robin of solo prowess. It is just this kind of skill and acumen that is shared amongst the members of the band that makes one of their songs or shows so entertaining. If you love really good music, that is. If you don’t, well, let’s just hope that’s not the case. A little on down the set they gave us the slightly melancholy “Mourning Flies”, the soft and lilting guitar solo intro setting the tone for this one. Enter Carbone’s gentle fiddle over the top of the guitar for a minute or two. And then enter the rest of the band for that kind of slowly intensifying introduction for which this band is known. This was a lengthy version of the song coming in at 11:18 with plenty of opportunities for each gent to strut his stuff on his chosen instrument. Which they took and ran with, believe you me. They took “Mourning” directly into Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” next, the energy of the new song echoing the previous one. Mellow was the name of the game for the moment, all with the undercurrent of intense emotion and feeling. This was American music, through and through. The music of our folk, our people, and played by those who really get it. What a treat!! The crowd certainly enjoyed the gift of this one as Todd nailed the vocals down expertly as well, of course. Carey even had some solo time a couple of minutes in…but vocal solo time. Not so often we get to see that. Pretty great right? Sadly there was a huge power outage to the main stage area that shut things down for a few minutes and brought “America” to a premature close. They were able to get things repaired quickly enough, though, and the show kept right on going. “Walk Beside Me” (which featured a phatty, phatty bass solo from Andrew Altman) followed “America” and went directly into “Birds of America” which we were able to capture on video for you to check out. Please enjoy!!
Pretty big “Birds of America” huh? Hope you liked that little piece of the show. Which kept right going as “Birds” went directly into the fast pickin’ “Stillwater Getaway”. Talk about a tune to get your blood moving! Amazing solos all around…once again. Are you sensing a theme? Because there surely is one when it comes to Railroad Earth — that of exquisite and exquisitely-played music. What a show it had been. But, all good things must come to a close now and again, sadly. However, happily for us, Sierra Hull was out to join them for “Bird in a House”, their ending number. An old favorite of seemingly most people in the crown, folks were singing along and dancing and enjoying this Railroad experience through to the very end. It sounded magnificent as it rang out over the crowd, bouncing off the bluffs behind us in the dark. A truly lovely ending to a truly lovely show. Many thanks to all the members of the band for such a special evening of music at DelFest 9!! Bravi, fellas, bravi!!
The Travelin’ McCourys
This band has to make some of the absolute best music on the market today. Hands down. Every time I see them they are just that much better. And getting better all the time. Each of these men is a master on his instrument, proven many times over with awards and accolades…and the applause of countless crowds the country over. Speed? You got it. Agility? You betcha. Precision? But of course! Skill, talent, acumen, ability? You’ve got that right, my friends. And the McCourys have got it all…in spades. We got our equipment up and rolling from the get go to capture the beginnings of what would be an epic set. “Cumberland Blues”? Hot damn. What a way to start!! Please enjoy!!
Holy goodness and my stars! How great was that?? They continued things smartly with “Somebody’s Gonna Pay”, Ronnie McCoury at the mic for lead vocals. Just love that man’s voice…so crystal clear and so perfect for bluegrass. There was some nice interplay between Jason Carter on fiddle and Rob McCoury on banjo that made for a special moment in the song. Never would want to get on Ronnie’s bad side, though, like the person in this song. Much rather be a friend to the McCourys, right? Right. Then it was time for Jason’s time at the mic, set up to croon one for us in the form of “Southbound”. What a rich voice he has. Always love getting a Carter solo. This time the interplay occurred between the McCoury brothers, mando and banjo, respectively. Quick-paced and fun, to be sure. Love watching those two play alongside one another. Cody Kilby stepped out and threw down a pretty monstrous guitar solo a couple minutes in, as well. That fellow is a pure guitar machine, no doubt about it. Nothing but mad respect. Alan Bartram took lead vocals on the next, the slightly sadder “Hardest Heart”, which featured some gorgeous fiddle work from Jason alongside Robbie’s fantastic banjo. Ronnie made his presence felt as well through some superb mandolin following. And then there’s Cody once again to just dominate the fretboard and make it sing so sweetly. Excellent ensemble sound in this song…really sounded just fantastic. And this was my first time hearing it as well. Hope it won’t be my last. A little later down the set it was time for some amazing vocal harmonies as the band covered Passenger’s “Let Her Go” — I mean these guys polished the heck out of their parts for this song. And it really showed. Ronnie was on the lead for it and when joined by his fellows, magic ensued. Truly. What an addition to the setlist for the evening! This was followed by Robbie leading things off on banjo for the familiar and fabulous “Midnight Flyer”, Jason Carter taking lead vocals once again. This one steamed along steadily just like a locomotive of bluegrass chugging into the night. That sound of Rob’s banjo just sticks out in my mind…ever-present in the song and excellent. Grooving merrily along with The Travelin’ McCourys!! What more could you ask for? More train songs? Why the heck not? Alan took to the mic once more for the lead on “I Think I’ll Stay Awhile”, a song about the siren-call of the train tracks and where they might lead…possibly to anywhere. Ronnie McCoury colored things in with some lovely mando while his brother followed suit on banjo. Bartram delivered some really fine singing throughout this one as well, the man being possessed of a fantastic voice like his compatriots. A bit further on, Ronnie’s son, Adam McCoury, joined the band for some fun. And for the Dead’s “Loser”, too. Talk about fun!! Adam was one lucky young man, to be sure. Of course, he definitely had some chops to show off that evening as his father crooned along to us of that familiar sad tale of unluckiness and woe. The younger McCoury delivered up one groovy and heartfelt solo on guitar before all was said and done. Bravo to him!! Definitely a crowd pleaser, this song. But that should come as no surprise. The Grateful Dead + The Travelin’ McCourys + DelFest = Inexplicable incredibleness. Conner Broome came out on stage next to join in on keys alongside Adam and the gents for a spot-on cover of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”. From the first familiar strains of the song, the crowd was instantly on board for this oldie, but greatie. “He’s got the action, he’s go the motion. Oooooh yeah, the boy can play!” And that was certainly the case when it came to the youngest fellas on the stage, Conner and Adam. Those boys can play, lemme tell you! Such talent and skill already well-honed at such a young age — I think we can expect great things from both gents in the future. John Hartford was next on the menu in the form of Jason Carter singing lead vocals on “Back in the Goodle Days”, a favorite around The Lot Scene offices. Some supremely awesome fiddle came down from Carter on this song when he wasn’t on the lyrics, as well. Talk about your “goodle days”, right? Then they invited Del out for a couple of songs for which we were all very grateful. How couldn’t we be? The first number they doled out from the stage was “You've Got The Look Of A Perfect Diamond" with Del on lead vocals. This one was a rollicking good musical time juxtaposed to the lyrics regarding a particularly cold and distant lady. Bluegrass so often does that, setting text to music that seem so opposite of one another…but it always seems to work out so very well. Just like with “Perfect Diamond”. Mighty fine banjo stylings from Rob on this one, too. That man truly is the “five string flamethrower”. Ronnie took over the mic from his father for the following number, “Homegrown Tomatoes”, borrowing a little assistance from a piece of paper for the lyrics. I’ve done that many, many times myself. The jumbotrons were alight with the lyrics for all to sing along to, and why not? Who doesn’t love singing along with Del and The Travelin’ McCourys?? So sing we did, loudly and proudly and we had a ball. Ahhhhh, DelFest. You know how to get me. Every time. They finished their set off by inviting Mark O’Connor out to join in on fiddle for their traditional farewell song, “Travelin’”. This song is pure energy in bluegrass form. All cylinders firing and with the nitrous boost of O’Connor in the mix? Electric!! Jason and Mark had a really marvelous back-and-forth at one point, fiddles flying in all directions. It was magnificent. Quite a way to end the show. But they weren’t done yet. How about Del and Sierra Hull coming out to nail down the encore with them? How’s about that, indeed?!? A song about a fiddle player was up for us here at the last, according to Carter. Another Hartford piece, and thankfully because Hartford pieces rock, “Vamp in the Middle” proved the perfect choice for a follow-on song to a set such as that. Sierra shone like the gemstone she is throughout, her instrument singing brightly. Dagnabit!! What a show!! Such superbly incredible music from start to finish. So many great guests with so much to add. Just phenomenal. A huge thanks to The Travelin’ McCourys and all their folk for such a marvelous DelFest set! Made me all the more eager for late night Sunday. But, we’ll have to wait for that for a bit…
Late Night - Cabinet - Greensky Bluegrass
Late Night once again. And the bill this time? Cabinet and Greensky. Holy dynamic duo, Batman!! This show had been sold out for months in anticipation of a double-barreled display of bluegrass, newgrass, and jamgrass all rolled into one night of fun and frivolity. And the place was packed, let me tell you. If people could get into this show, they did get into this show. And the musical reward for entry? Pure gold. Cabinet opened the whole shebang playing hits and jams left and right, like starting off with “Eleanor” which they took directly into “Mysterio”. Both songs filled with lots of up energy, they proved their own double-barrel opener for the double-barrel late night. Electrified and electric, Cabinet came roaring out the gate bringing smiles, joy, and fun to one and all assembled under that metal roof. Todd Kopec spanked that fiddle of his something fierce throughout, laying down some serious notes. Pappy Biondo also delivered some pretty incredible notes of his own on banjo. Not to mention all the shredding on electric guitar by Mickey Coviello. Again, one more band that is filled with beastly players of the highest order. Machines. Demi-gods. Call them what you will, those cats can play! “Mysterio”, driven forward by the drums of Josh Karis and Jami Novak, is a thrill ride through minor keys and lots of tasty percussion. Spacey and jammy in all the right ways, an apropos addition for a late night setlist. Later in their set we were treated to Pappy at the vocals for “Diamond Joe”. Featuring J.P. Biondo on the mandolin, this song really gets moving as the tale is spun of Diamond Joe and his exploits. More supremely good guitar work from Coviello here as well. There was a huge ending jam featuring pretty much everyone on everything before all was said and done throwing the crowd into a veritable frenzy. It was pretty freakin’ sweet to say the least. Next up was a super incredible gift of music: Clapton’s “Cocaine” featuring Cris Jacobs guesting in for a giant 9:18 minutes!! How lucky were we?? Seriously, we were all pretty much completely beside ourselves. “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…” And this music didn’t lie, either…it was so very, very good. The best. And Cris Jacobs? Really? So very, very good. A big thanks to the band and to Cris for this one! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the exquisite jamming that occurred throughout this song, too. The music was just stupendous. ‘Nuff said. They finished their set with a big ol’ fat “Heavy Rain”, a foots-stomper and singalong if there ever was one. Pappy crooned out his cautionary tale to a crowd of super happy folk as the band slammed along behind him. Big vocals coming out of this one, awesome harmonies abounding. Certainly a great way to simmer things down from such a hot, hot show. Mad ups to Cabinet for bringing the heat to late night and working us all up for some Greensky Bluegrass to follow!
GSBG!! Let’s do this! Riding high on all that incredible Cabinet energy, we were all ready for our Greensky and more. And just how did they start their show?? Oh, merely a little Talking Heads cover for us… “Road to Nowhere” with Paul Hoffman at the main vocals. And so we were instantly immersed in Greensky’s musical world and overjoyed for it. What a stellar version of this song, all grassed up in all the ways you want. Anders Beck’s ever-present dobro alongside Dave Bruzza’s guitar and Hoffman’s mando…that quintessential sound we associate with GSBG. All showcased in this one in perfect fashion. OK. I was game. So far, so amazing. A meaty “Kerosene” followed full of trippy, spaced-out intros and that gunshot of energy as the song takes hold. Bruzza was in fine form on the vocals and nailed down his line effortlessly. Beck delivered his usual schooling on the dobro as the song hurtled along at full speed. The breakdown at the ending was just a monster of a thing. So dirty nasty good in all the right ways. The ensuing adoring cheers from the audience were deafening. Next in the set was “Old Barns” which the band dedicated to Rachel Ciboro. I love this song and I love the way Paul sings it. Seriously, this one always pulls at the heartstrings. The hallmark of a truly well-written song. Later on down the line, the band had a little fun with a “Cocaine” tease, led by Hoffman on mandolin. Instead, however, Paul sang “Cabinet” instead of “cocaine”. Too funny. What a prankster!! This was followed by a huge “Don’t Lie” to the tune of 16:32, with a crazy good intro jam. Impressive. Can’t imagine owning the bass for that long they way that Mike Devol does. And did. Talk about the true foundation of the band…his notes are there, always supporting. Always. Love his style, too. Hard not to love the members of this band for all their musical skills and talents. Mike Bont had a bit of fire in him as well all evening long, taking his banjo to task and producing excellence. Another brutally good ending jam developed in “Don’t Lie” taking the energy levels to such degrees as to threaten to tear down the Music Hall. Dobro in your face…so good!! Bass, badass…so good!! Banjo all around you…so good!! Mando madness to behold…so good!! Guitar goodness…so good!! And that’s the theme of the Greensky set that late night…so good!! Still later on in the show we got the sweet deal of “Don’t Lie” directly into “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, a favorite cover amongst the GSBG fan masses. And it should be as well. “Don’t Lie” they took at a quick clip, instruments shining and singing out at the fast tempo. The kings of the whizzbang wild energy wielding ending jam, they went all in for “Light Up” throwing in “Dancing on the Ceiling” teases and more. They ramped this one up I tell you! One of those moments where it’s almost too much music to take in. But there was so much more music left! In the form of the main event, in my opinion, the epic (yes, epic) “Worried About the Weather > China Cat Sunflower > Big Shot” that served as the anchor for the show. Almost 20 minutes of straight bluegrass awesomeness. Wowsers. And the Dead. And Billy Joel. What?? That’s right. Bruzza was on lead vocals for “Worried” which sounded just about album perfect, each member completely destroying their parts. Just as we were grooving along to the song and getting into some jams, they were off into “China Cat Sunflower” to the delight of all. Paul sounded pretty durn amazing on the lead vocals channeling all his inner Dead that he could muster and more. What a performance. Anyways, I just love this song…one of my faves from the Dead’s catalogue. As such, I was certainly happy to hear it in the mix that night. Lovely mandolin from Hoffman as well as lovely dobro from Beck. Perfectly melded parts into the fabric of the song. Masterful and a joy to hear. And then, after some more wonderful jamming, it was off into Billy Joel’s musical landscape with “Big Shot”, Hoffman on lead vocals. Who knew this would be such a big, fat ending to a marvelous show such as this? Bravi fellas, quite so! They closed things down with “Dustbowl Overtures” and Paul singing “Easy Like Sunday Morning” teases during the intro. And close things down they did, too. Holy goodness…so amazing right to the very end. A huge round of applause and thanks to the lads in the band for such an incredible time. Made for the best late night yet (and there was still one more to go!). What a long and lovely night of music! My soul was so sated, almost to overflow. And there was still Sunday Funday to go. Wow…could I make it? You has best believe it!!