The Stagecoach Festival set schedule released yesterday by Goldenvoice reveals that the festival will present three simultaneous stages in 2008, down from four last year and five from the previous week's Coachella, held on the same site.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Posted by Dan Ruby at 12:11 PM
Monday, April 28, 2008
I would have loved to have been at MerleFest this year, but couldn't work it into my schedule--or more to the point, my budget. But I was still able to catch all the live action on the Watson and Cabin stages throughout the weekend courtesy of MVYradio, the live music site that has been streaming performances from MerleFest, with permission from the festival, for the last three years.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 3:27 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Update: This head-scratcher of a story took another strange turn. Festival honcho Chuck Wentworth outright denied publicist Giurleo's comments about fee increases and policing issues, but he did not deny that the festival is looking at a possible move in 2009. HIs message to the festival's official email list did not say what other reasons are driving management's thinking. One thing is sure—Chuck and his PR rep ought to get their stories straight.
With local officials considering a significant fee increase for use of Ninigret Park in Charleston RI by music festivals, the producers of the popular Rhythm & Roots Festival, held Labor Day weekend at the beachfront park, have made public that they are considering other options.
The producers' other big event, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, was forced to find and move to a new location on short notice this year after its long-time venue was sold to new owners. At this point, everything is on track for a successful debut on the new Grey Fox site at Walsh Farm in Oak Hill NY on July 17-20.
According to Rhythm & Roots publicist Ellen Giurleo, "The bottom line is we want to stay at Ninigret. The festival has invested plenty of money to make improvements in the park for it to be festival-worthy, and [we] hope for it to be a permanent home for Rhythm & Roots."
Some festival-goers have complained about an increased police presence in the Ninigret campgrounds at last year's festival, possibly an overreaction to problems at a reggae festival held on the site earlier last summer. In addition to their concerns about the fees, the festival may be seeking reassurances that police will have a lower profile.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 12:59 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
For one of the lesser known California roots festivals, the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival in Mendocino County always offers up a star-studded lineup to honor the memory of the influential singer-songwriter who passed away at too early an age. The 13th KWMMF runs June 27-29 at beautiful Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville CA.
Check out the lineup: Los Lobos, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal Trio, Keb' Mo' Band, Greg Brown, David Lindley, The Waifs, Ruthie Foster, Todd Snider, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, Nina Gerber, Jimmy LaFave, Rosalie Sorrels, Cris Williamson, The Wailin' Jennys, The Greencards, Pieta Brown, Blame Sally, Vance Gilbert, and Moira Smiley & VOCO and more to announce in the near future.
The festival is always strong in folkies—I've seen Greg Brown, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, The Waifs and Jimmy LaFave in previous years. The just-added Ani DiFranco adds more firepower in that dimension. But the big theme in this lineup looks to be acoustic blues—Taj Mahal, Keb' Mo' and Ruthie Foster would make quite the threesome at almost any festival.
That is more than worth the three-hour drive north from the Bay Area, or to travel in from further afield. The festival offers three music stages, great camping, kid's activities and plenty of crafts and food vendors. Highly recommended.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 8:26 AM
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The 2008 Festival International de Louisiane gets off to an early start Wednesday to get the jump on cross-state rival New Orleans Jazzfest, and it presents some of its headline names on a big opening Thursday night show at Popeyes Scene International main stage in downtown Lafayette LA.
This year, Thursday night kicks off with hometown roots rocker Sonny Landreth, followed by the incomparable Blind Boys of Alabama (with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band horn section), and closing with jazz funkster Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. Later in the weekend, The Duhks, Burning Spear and Terrance Simien's Zydeco Experience are among the highlights.
Formed in 1986, Festival International de Louisiane is a community-based, non-profit arts organization that provides a free (yes, free) family event celebrating the French cultural heritage of southern Louisiana. The 22nd FIL runs April 23-27 in Lafayette LA.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 4:43 PM
The International Bluegrass Music Museum's River of Music Party is a festival designed to celebrate the past and future of bluegrass music each June in Owensboro KY, considered by many as the home of bluegrass music. This year's event offers a tasty mix of traditional and progressive bluegrass styles with a lineup featuring The Infamous Stringdusters, Cherryholmes, Crooked Still, Hazel Dickens, Claire Lynch, Cadillac Sky, Dale Ann Bradley, Dry Branch Fire Squad and many more.
The festival opens with a Thursday program June 26 at RiverPark Center's Cannon Hall, including an evening legends concert with The Isaacs, The Lewis Family and The Sullivan Family, with Dry Branch's Ron Thomason emceeing.
The Friday and Saturday program run all day June 27-28 at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro. Other festival highlights include a film series, vendor exhibits, workshops and free camping. For tickets and more information, visit the festival website.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 1:48 PM
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Strawberry filled out its Spring festival lineup with a last batch of mostly first-timers, but the full schedule looks pretty compelling. One of the newly named is an old Strawberry hand, Laurie Lewis, who will be the opening night closer with her current configuration The Right Hands, including long-time collaborator Tom Rozum, super bassist Todd Philips, and Craig Smith on banjo and Scott Huffman on guitar.
The Friday, Saturday and Sunday closers are, respectively, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Emmylou Harris, and Peter Rowan & The Free Mexican Airforce. The lead-in sets to the closers are also strong, with Carlene Carter, Tim O'Brien and Chuck Prophet in that slot Friday through Sunday.
The other newly announced names are The Trespassers, Tony Furtado, Caroline Herring, Mountain Laurel, Po' Girl, Los Pinguos, and Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Review.
Among artists making Strawberry debuts, attendees might want to pay special attention to: Cadillac Sky, one of the best young contemporary bluegrass outfits; Po' Girl, a Canadian folk trio that has been getting lots of buzz; Caroline Herring, a sweetheart of the Folk Alliance crowd; Carlene Carter, country traditionalist from the great Carter family; and JJ Grey & Mofro, southern-fried electric blues.
Strawberry also features musical subthemes in each lineup. This season, one theme is Latin roots with classically flavored Del Castillo and Argentine transplants to L.A. Los Pinguos. Texas-style Americana is represented by South Austin Jug Band and Belleville Outfit.
Strawberry always showcases emerging northern California bands. The two from that category this festival are The Trespassers, a Yosemite-area string band, and Mountain Laurel, traditional bluegrassers from the Gold Country.
For full lineup details, visit the Strawberry website. Tickets from the festival are fully sold out. The unofficial Strawberry Ticket Exchange is a good place to find resale tickets, as is Craigslist SF Bay Area edition.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 4:15 PM
Friday, April 18, 2008
The preliminary lineup for the Newport Folk Festival is raising some eyebrows among long-time attendees. Sure, the folk versus rock argument is beyond stale now that it is more than 40 years since Bob Dylan plugged in an amplifier at the hallowed festival. In recent years, the festival has featured big-name rock acts to top the lineup and attract ticket buyers, but the bulk of the program has maintained the its traditional focus on homemade music styles.
The lineup announced yesterday includes acts like The Black Crowes, Cat Power, Stephen Marley, Cowboy Junkies, Jimmy Buffet and others that seem to be shifting the focus towards roots rock. Faithful festival-goers are watching closely because of changes underway at the festival's production company, Festival Network, which acquired long-time producer Festival Productions Inc. last year.
Bob Jones, who has headed the festival for more than 40 years, is still nominally in charge, but associate producer Jay Sweet, an editor of Paste Magazine, seems to be putting his stamp on the historic event. In a recent interview with Fox25 News, Sweet said, "This year is going to be a lot different. We are trying to bring more youth into the festival, and let people know that in our own backyard in New England we have a really first-class festival."
Actually, the Sunday schedule trends toward somewhat folkier styles, with Jimmy Buffet, Levon Helm, Gillian Welch, and The Avett Brothers heading the bill. It may be that the festival programmers are setting up a schedule that will skew younger and rockier on Saturday and older and folkier on Sunday.
Or it may be too early to divine the producers' intentions. More artists are due to be announced soon.
One sign of the times is the scheduled appearance by Jakob Dylan, son of Bob, with his new band The Gold Mountain Rebels. Dylan is on a number of top festival lineups this summer, including Bonnaroo, Rothbury, and Austin City Limits, as well as Newport Folk.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 5:48 PM
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Dancin' Dave is well-known personality on the roots festival scene. Besides boogie-ing, he supports the festival industry by providing a camp setup service for out-of-town attendees at about a dozen festivals a year. In the past we have posted some of his regular email musings. Now we are glad to see that he has launched a regular blog.
The first several posts are some thoughts on the upcoming MerleFest. Today he began a series of posts about Sam Bush, whom he regards as the "king of newgrass" and his all-time favorite musician. As our welcome to the blogosphere for a fellow festival head, here is an excerpt from Dave's first "me and Sammy" installment. Go here for the full report plus more to come.
I had known for a long time that I should visit Nashville. I finally did in 1996, when I had some extra time on my hands while on the way to Merlefest. I met some friends who were headed down to New Orleans for the Jazzfest, and we spent a couple of days exploring the Music City. It was a blast!
I had heard of the Station Inn in Nashville, so this was one spot that had to be checked out. We went there on Friday night, and upon entering the building I noticed a small, hand-written note on a torn off piece of paper, announcing that Sam Bush was playing the next night. So that evening for my first Station Inn show was Butch Balassardi's Nashville Mandolin Ensemble—eight mandolins, one guitar and bass. It was amazing.
The next day we were driving around Nashville, thinking of getting something to eat, when I realized that we were near the Station Inn. Just for giggles, I mentioned that we ought to stop to see if Sam was rehearsing. We actually did drive over and noticed that the padlock was unlocked and just hanging on the door. My friend Sandra jumped out of the car, rushed into the place, came back out, and motioned for us to join her. Sure enough, Sam and his buddies were about to start to rehearse. I asked Sam (we didn't know each other at this point) if I could hang around and he graciously said: "Sure, make yourself at home...we're breaking in a new guitar player, a fellow named Darrell Scott, and he's a dandy."
Brian and Sandra were still hungry so they took off, but I somehow lost my appetite, so I stayed and watched as Sam and John Cowan taught Darrell some songs. Larry Atamaniuk was drummin' up a storm, and I hung around all afternoon. I was the only person in the place, other than the band and two sound men. At one point Sam pointed out that there was beer in the coolers behind the bar, so now I was really in bluegrass heaven. Later that night, Sam and the boys rocked the joint!
Posted by Dan Ruby at 12:21 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The full music schedule and other festival details are up for the first ever DelFest, coming Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland MD. Besides the great lineup (more below), the festival has special touches like a late-night stage, artist workshops, kids' area and great onsite camping. Early bird ticketing ends April 14. Go here for more on ticketing and the deluxe VIP plans.
The lineup is a delightful mix of styles that is a reflection of the festival's namesake Del McCoury—some big country names (Vince Gill and Dierks Bentley), a top lineup of jam bands (Keller Williams and The Keels, Emmitt-Nershi Band, Railroad Earth, Vince Herman's new project, and Jon Fishman as artist-at-large, the best in progressive bluegrass (Sam Bush, David Grisman, Chris Thile and more), and assorted other folk musicians (David Bromberg, Abigail Washburn, and Adrienne Young).
For great straight-ahead bluegrass, there is the Steep Canyon Rangers, Dan Paisley & The Southern Grass, Ronnie Reno and of course the host Del McCoury Band, on stage each night at 8:30 as a warm up for the big closing act.
This is shaping up to be a great festival launch, and its western Maryland location is in easy reach of cities around the eastern U.S. Partners McCoury Music and High Sierra look like they have a winning concept here.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 8:13 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Jamgrass standard bearers Yonder Mountain String Band will return as host band for the seventh year at Northwest Sting Summit July 18-20 at Horning's Hideout in North Plains OR. Also featured on the bill are special guests Darol Anger and Danny Barnes, both standout performers familiar to roots festival attendees.
This is a festival rooted in the jam market. Other jam artists on the bill are Keller Williams, Drew Emmitt, and Bill Nershi. Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell will appear in a duet performance with Barnes. Yonder Mountain will close the show each of the festival's three nights culminating in a super jam with many of the festival artists on stage.
With its natural amphitheater and ample primitive camping, Horning's Hideout is a beautiful festival venue. One of the highlights of the festival is its Friday night band competition. Tickets ($140) are available at the festival's website.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 2:45 PM
Saturday, April 05, 2008
The legendary original purveyors of country punk, The Knitters, will play on the same bill as The Avett Brothers, probably the reigning champs in that category, at Strawberry Music Festival Fall, August 28-31 at Camp Mather near Groveland CA.
The festival announced the rare festival date for The Knitters along with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin as the most recent adds to a lineup also featuring Sam Bush, Marc Broussard, Mavis Staples and the Avett Brothers, among many more. Knitters guitarist Dave Alvin is an old Strawberry hand, but this will be a debut performance for The Knitters, who released one album in 1985 and another in 2005. Patty Griffin has played two previous Strawberrys, but her Spring 2006 performance was marred by cold weather.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 4:23 PM
Seedtime in eastern Kentucky refers to the period when settlers first crossed the Cumberland Gap into what was then the western wilderness. Appalshop, a non-profit arts and education center in Whitesburg KY, will present the 22nd Seedtime on the Cumberland to celebrate Appalachian culture June 10-14 on the Appalshop grounds and nearby venues.
Country traditionalist Kathy Mattea, singer-songwriter Darrell Scott and bluegrass great Jesse McReynolds—all performers with strong ties to the region—will headline the full-featured festival. Besides musical stages, the event offers film screenings, picking contests, gallery exhibits, sing-along, literary readings, a square dance and a lot more. Except for the headline concerts, all of it is free to the public.
While Seedtime has been a long time local tradition, it may gain broader notice now that Art Menius, formerly of MerleFest, has arrived as the director of Appalshop. It sure looks like a good option for the second weekend in June if you are anywhere within driving distance. There's a handy calculator on the festival directions page to figure that out.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 2:11 PM
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Gospel Jubilators on Cabin Stage
Planning - The best source for planning and managing your time at Merlefest remains the Merlefest web site. Once both a resource and a more-or-less open forum, the web site has changed in recent years, eliminating the lively message board it once carried. This has been, at least partially, replaced by The Unofficial Merlefest Forum, which provides for the discussion, but loses out because it hasn’t yet attracted the large group once posting at the Merlefest home site. Despite this loss, the official site of this great festival still provides most of the information you need in order to plan your four days in Wilkesboro.
Scene at Creekside Stage
Where to Stay – During our first four years at Merlefest, we stayed on campus in our trailer. Last year, when they raised the price, we migrated out to Fort Hamby on W. Kerr Scott Reservoir outside town. It worked for us. There are other campgrounds in the area, but by this time they are pretty well filled. The Merlefest web site gives a good overview of these. Unless you’re very lucky, you won’t find a motel room in the area, and if you do, it’ll be quite expensive. For next year, make your reservations early.
Doc Watson at Creekside
Seeing What You Want and Getting Around - Your first task, and do it today, is to download and print the Merlefest Schedule. Once you arrive at Merlefest, the pocket guide the festival provides will become your best friend, but until then you can use these Adobe PDF documents as a tool to guide your planning. The pocket guide will also be accompanied by a large, elaborate, and useful festival program describing all the performers as well as detailing the vendors and their locations. Until you get this booklet in your hands, the 2008 line-up will have to do. This listing has the advantage of providing links to most of the artists performing at Merlefest, allowing you to research them to your heart’s content and listen to samples of their music. Since one of the great joys of Merlefest is being introduced to new bands and sounds, this resource shouldn’t be overlooked. You can also find a festival map here. This recently updated map provides a much more accurate picture of the Wilkes Community College campus than earlier versions. The only missing element is a sense of the geography of the place, and this is important. At Merlefest you’ll do a lot of walking and climbing. The campus is quite hilly, the hills are steep, and two important stages (Walker Center and Hillside) require quite a hike. The final important resource is a list of stages. Click on stages on the Merlefest home page and you’ll be provided a list of each stage at the festival. Select each one and read about its focus. I’d prefer a more elaborate discussion, but combined with the map and the artists list, this link is helpful. Remember the reserve seating section at Watson Stage is open until 5:00 PM. Just go in and sit in an empty seat. If the owner returns, move somewhere else. Some people with strong bladders manage to stay inside into the evening, but once you leave, you won't get back. Once you have these resources in hand, you can begin to chart out a tentative schedule. But remember what Don Rigsby sang, “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.”
Sam Bush's Annual Jam
Dressing for Merlefest is an important consideration. Remember a few things. It always rains at Merlefest. You won’t know when or how much, but count on rain. No matter how warm, sunny and pleasant the day is the evening is likely to be cool or even cold. The Watson Stage is set on a flat plain surrounded by steep hills. As the sun sets, cooling air begins to roll down from the hillsides and settle onto this main performance area. By nine or ten in the evening, everyone wishes they had more and warmer clothing. Bring several layers of clothes with you, including a fresh, dry, warm pair of socks. Remember that keeping your feet and head warm increases your chance of keeping the rest of you warm. As the evening progresses, layer up to stay warm. In the bottom of your pack, make sure you have a nylon shell to ward off dampness in either its drifting or falling form.
Reserve Seats at Watson Stage
Eating at Merlefest - A couple who have sat three rows in front of us ever since we began coming to Merlefest always carry a lot of food in with them. I suspect, in addition to hors d’oerves, they have the forbidden cocktails in a thermos. They carry fruit, salads…all they need for the day. Our seat neighbors always bring sandwiches as well as plenty of snacks with them. Both ways work well. We do some of that, too. However, we also believe in doing what we can to support the vendors at the festival. The massive food tent, to the left of the Watson Stage, offers a range of foods from hamburgers and hot dogs, through barbecue, to Thai, Italian, and Indian specialties. Meals are tasty and reasonably priced. There’s one problem: at meal times the lines are long and seats at the nearby tables are scarce. The best way to shorten your wait in line is to eat at off hours or during the performances of big headliners. You can hear from the food tent and see the huge television screen, and the lines seem to be shorter. Last year, several vendors of snack foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and the ever popular funnel cakes were spread around the grounds. There were still long lines. I’ve been told that this year the festival has worked with vendors to increase efficiency and staffing at high traffic periods. They’ve also worked to make pick-up foods like hot dog, hamburgers, pizza, and ice-cream more available in high traffic areas. Coffee will be brewed on-campus making it more quickly available in larger quantities. Merlefest leadership is aware of the problems and has worked hard to alleviate them.
The Great Tut Tayler - Honoring the Pioneers
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Ted Lehmann posts his usual in-depth review and photo gallery from the Southeast circuit, this time from the second Carolina Road Homecoming last weekend in Burlington NC.
Here's an except. Visit Ted's site for the full report.
Wow! What a weekend of music, jamming, getting together with old friends, and making new ones. Usually, we prefer to take our bluegrass music outdoors, come rain or shine. The festival scene works great when RVers pull in from all parts of the country to congregate for a few days before returning home or moving on to the next event. On this, the last weekend in March, however, North Carolina is an unlikely place for an outdoor festival. While it was quite warm on Friday, Saturday turned chilly and wet; even a pretty tough and committed festival goer would have been challenged to stay outdoors for the music.
Inside the Burlington, NC Ramada Inn, however, it was warm and toasty, the bands ran from quite good to outstanding, the jamming reached heights I hadn’t heard at many other festivals, and Lorraine Jordan, one of the hardest working people in bluegrass, aided by her very competent staff and a herd of committed volunteers, kept things running smoothly and people involved and having fun.
Posted by Dan Ruby at 11:03 AM