|Andrew Weigel||Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival 2008|
These are pictures from the 56th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, which ran from between May 15th and 18th, 2008. Click on any picture to bring up full-size pictures of the performers.
This was a fairly small-sized festival, obviously much smaller than MerleFest and quite a bit smaller than festivals such as Grey Fox. There was one performance stage (shown in the pictures) and a Workshop tent. Relatively few attendees brought their instruments. It had typical festival weather: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Each group performed two 45-minute sets a day, rather than a single, longer set. That worked out very well.
The workshops are one of the most distinctive and memorable parts of these festivals. They're the one experience you can't begin to replicate listening to a CD, watching a performance on television, or going to a conventional hall. You can sit right at the feet of first-rate performers, hear their ideas on a variety of topics, ask questions, and engage in some back and forth. You often remember the workshops after many of the performances have faded.
Gettysburg did a very good job with the workshops, some of which are described below. Other performers conducting workshops included Mike Auldridge, Pete Wernick, Tim Stafford, Mike Andes, and Ron Thomason.
"One band mentioned the crime problem that is plaguing their hometown: there are no dental records and everyone has the same DNA."
"I thought for a while there was a town Wedlock in North Carolina, because so many of the pickers were born just outside of it."
Certainly a far funnier festival than MerleFest.
There are a couple of things you can note from the pictures:
Thursday had the nicest weather, basically clear. The good.
These pictures are from their evening set, 5:20 to 6:00pm. Their performances were very well received. Particularly memorable were banjoist Mike Mumford with "Flint Hill Special", and the concluding number, "Locomotive Breath" (yes, that one).
They followed Bob Perilla's BHB, so Mike Mumford (on banjo) didn't even have to leave the stage. On the right is Mike Auldridge (an original member of The Seldom Scene) playing the resophonic guitar. He's probably the most lyrical resophonic player I've heard.
Their final piece was an instrumental jam, which Mike Auldridge took to "Walk, Don't Run". It worked extremely well.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver took the stage at 8:00pm. Earlier that afternoon Doyle and the other three singers (Alan Johnson on fiddle and singing bass, Carl White on upright bass and jokes, and Darren Beachley on guitar) gave a very nice workshop on bluegrass vocals.
Two of the more memorable songs they played during their set were "Help is on the Way" and "There's More Behind the Picture than the Wall". The latter is the only one of their songs I've heard on the radio in northern New Jersey.
For one song Doyle Lawson brought out an arch-top guitar to fingerpick a 20s - 30s sounding song in the style of Mother Maybelle Carter. And thus was born "Mother Mothball".
Josh Swift played the Dobro, and he was fantastic. He also did a number of things I haven't seen other Dobro players do, such as bouncing his right hand up and down rather than simply sliding or hingeing it.
Doyle Lawson spoke about how Josh Swift came to become a member the band. They were playing together onstage, and Doyle announced the next song. He asked Josh if he knew it, and Josh said "No, but I will by the time it gets around to me." As Doyle said, "That was the right answer."
As they probably are at every festival they play, they were the best vocal group at Gettysburg (they're the 7-time winner of the IBMA's "Vocal Group of the Year Award"). Is it time for "The Legendary Doyle Lawson"?
If you want to hear the joke about the three-legged pig with a wooden peg leg, you'll just have to go a concert.
Friday started with mist which turned into intermittent rain, accompanied by cold temperatures. And wind. Never a downpour, it was nevertheless memorable. The bad.
These pictures are from their 2:00pm set (they did another at 8:40pm). There was light rain and mud. Note the blue plastic covering on the band's monitors, and the jackets and hats on the crowd. No umbrella's yet....
They did a number of weather-related songs, as well as quite a few numbers from their new CD, "Wheels". Besides the title cut, I thought "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose" was the most enjoyable. Overall, the crowd showed the greatest appreciation for the mud slide reference in "No Place to Hide"!
The weather brightened during their set, which followed The Dan Tyminski Band. On the right playing resophonic guitar is Rob Ickes, 9-time winner of the IBMA's "Dobro Player of the Year Award". The guitar player is Tim Stafford, who does a killer Ralph Stanley impersonation.
Their set was very well received. There was brief chatter about the pairing Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (of course). This lead Tim Stafford to do the hardcore bluegrass version of "Black Dog" (has to be heard to be believed), which segued into "Blackbird". Not available on any CD....
In the last picture, they're not posing for me. It was for the pretty picture taker next to me, and I just horned in.
Her band followed Blue Highway and was the only one with neither a Dobro nor a fiddle. That said, it was also one of the more personal sets.
Nothin' Fancy came on at 4:30pm, just before the dinner break. They won the SPBGMA "Entertaining Group Of The Year" award for 2008, and their set and the crowd's reaction only makes you wonder why they hadn't won it before.
Too many high points to record here, though "Pass Me By (if You're Only Passing Through)" is a must-see. You don't want to leave your seat for this one.
"I Met My Baby In The Porta-Jon Line" certainly struck close to the hearts (well, maybe not quite there) of the crowd (though, fair to say, Gettysburg handles this better than most festivals).
These pictures are from their 7:00pm set. The band is two brothers, two sons of one, and one non-family member. A couple of the standouts were "Ruby" and "You Don't Even Call Me By My Name".
The Grascals followed The Bluegrass Brothers and did a set that included "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Sunny Side of the Mountain". There was a very strong Jimmy Martin influence throughout the entire festival.
Well, the day started out nice....
Yes, they were back for a second day! Either by popular demand or because there was an empty slot to fill, they were warmly welcomed. The pictures are from their 12:30pm set.
They reprised "Pass Me By (if You're Only Passing Through)" (it wouldn't be one of their shows without it).
They explored their more sensitive side with "Lookout, Momma Done Stepped on the Scales Again". This was released as a 2-song CD (The Other Side of Nothin' Fancy), backed with "I Met My Baby In The Porta-Jon Line". The perfect Mother's Day gift. But it unfortunately appears to be out of print.
For the classical crowd, the fiddler (Chris Sexton) channeled his inner violinist on Bach's Minuet in G major (better known as "The Lover's Concerto", though this was done as an instrumental), which then wandered into more familiar terrain.
Chris Sexton did a "Classical Fiddle" workshop later, with Nicky Sanders of The Steep Canyon Rangers (whom one hopes will soon return the accordion to its rightful place in bluegrass). All the workshops were good, and this was one of the best.
Their set didn't really work, unfortunately. They were the only act for which no one stood during the applause afterwards.
There was little spotlight on the banjo. J. D. did most of his playing from mid-depth on the stage, and the guitar player always stood towards the front, obscuring much of the audience's view.
A real crowd-pleaser. Due to an illness, her brother Darrin (of Dailey & Vincent, also performing at the festival) is on bass. "(We've Gotta) Good Thing Going", the title song from their new CD, went over very well.
Earlier, Rhonda and Darrin did a workshop on singing. They covered many interesting points and had a fine rapport with the audience.
The band has been around since 1971, and they still have one of the original members (another of the original members, Mike Auldridge, played on Thursday).
Standouts from their set were "Hometown Blues" (from their most recent album) and "Ain't Nothing Brings You Down Like Your Hometown".
DBFS has been making music for 30 years now and has a great rapport with the audience. They make you feel like they've come to make music in your parlor.
Cold. Rain. Wind. Cold, cold, windy rain. Rain. The ugly.
Last updated: June 21, 2016. Copyright 2005-2017, Andrew H. Weigel (AHW). E-mail: Web2013@andrewweigel.name.