Merlefest 2008 has come and for my part, finally gone! Amazing, spectacular, magnificent and inspiring are just a few of the words to describe the experience....you'd think a guy would get used to or even blase about Merlefest after 14 years of it; but, NO friggin' way!!
I have seen the festival grow and change both from the outside and the inside over these years and I could not be prouder to be associated with this world-class organization. The logistics themselves are mind-boggling but somehow things just seem to go along at a relaxed pace...a tremendous tribute to B Townes, Ted Hagaman, and staff. Lynn and I have been volunteering for the festival at the RV lot since 1999 and have met many fine folks who work the festival on many levels because of this. And the staff at Merlefest has treated me and my business with the utmost of respect since I started...and have always asked if they could do more for me; I love it. Because of a shift in on-site camping for vendors, performers, and related fields, Lynn and I were asked to move from our usual camping spot...right down where I have wanted to camp for years! (sometimes things just work out....>g<)
And then there was the music!!!! There's where all those superlatives are appropo...and more.
I of course had my favorites: I saw Sam Bush four times; with Levon Helm, with Peter Rowan , Tish Hinojosa, Laurie Lewis and Mike Bubb, with Doc Watson's "Docabilly" set, and his rip-roarin' Watson Stage set on Friday night! He blistered it....started out with "Uncle Pen" and encored with "Rollin' In My Sweet Babie's Arms"! He also did a couple of other bluegrass tunes, more than I usually see him play in a set; it was great!!!
The Waybacks continue to blow me away as well. James Nash and co. are on fire! They hosted a couple of jams that were outta' sight; including the playing of the entire 2nd Led Zepplin album, from start to finish. I watched part of it...John Cowan was hitting all the notes and everyone was smokin'. But, even though I bought the first two Led Zepplin albums I was never a big fan, so I went off to dance to a cajun beat. >g< The rest of the crowd was goin' bananas....
Way up on my list of favorites was the Alison Brown Quartet, with Joe Craven making it a quintet. I've loved Alison's sound now for many years, and the addition of Joe only brings the group to a higher level in my book. Simply awesome music, and Joe is always a treat. It was nice to see Larry Atamaniuk had joined the group as well....hard to imagine two better percussionists than those two!
And I loved the Docabilly set. Good to hear that swing and ol' rock 'n roll stuff from one of my favorite Doc Watson albums. And thinking back, this might have been the only set of Doc's I saw....mmm.
So here's the sets that I saw, in the order I saw them. (I never went through this like this before...ought to be interesting...>g<)(and mind you...I take a much easier pace at Merlefest than I used to....!)
Thursday night: The Infamous Stringdusters; Laurie Lewis and The Right Hands; parts of both Blue Highway and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives; and the Old Crow Medicine Show.
Friday: Jack Lawrence and Tony Williamson; Welcome Home Jam Part Two, featuring the Waybacks, John Cowan, and Sally Van Meter; a Honky Tonk Dance with the Wilders; The Waifs; Alison Brown Quartet with Joe Craven; Peter Rowan, Tish Hinojosa, Sam Bush, Mike Bubb, and Laurie Lewis; a Free Style Dance with the Whitetop Mountain Band; The Carolina Chocolate Drops; Ruthie Foster; SAM BUSH; and a Cajun Dance with the Pine Leaf Boys! (quite a day...>g<)
Saturday: New Generation Super Jam, with the Lovell Sisters, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, and Bearfoot; (about this time on Saturday all hell broke loose, weather-wise! A big thunderstorm came through and Lynn and I were lucky enough to end up back at camp together, and spent the storm in a neighbor's RV, being charmed by a more than cute 2 1/2 year old girl who was good at giggling...it was a treat during a storm, to be sure. >g<); Alison Brown again; The Claire Lynch Band; Hillside Album Hour, the Led Zepplin deal; a Cajun Dance with The Pine Leaf Boys, Tara Nevins and Dirk Powell; Docabilly, with Doc Watson, Sam Bush, T Michael Coleman, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little, Buddy Greene and Richard Watson; Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby and Kentucky Thunder; Levon Helm and the Ramble on the Road with Special Guests (which of course included Mr. Bush himself....the good bush that is.); Dance Tent with Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan and Friends. (kind of a full-music/dance day....>g<)
Sunday: I sure did skip some stuff on this day!!! The weather was threatening and I opted to work while I could...... A little bit of the Freestyle Dance; Alison and Joe again...partially; Jack Lawrence, T. Michael Coleman, and Jeff Little (and after this, Jack and I and Katie and Lynn and my good buddy Ed finally got to kick back and visit; this doesn't happen very often at Merlefest, so this was a treat. Jack and I go back a long time now, and have had many giggles along the way.); the Jerry Douglas Band....and that was it!
I didn't get to see some shows that I wouldn't have missed if it wasn't for the weather...and one of them would have been Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. Lynn got to see that, and a good friend/customer also ranted and raved about how off-the-charts that show was. At least I got to hear it from afar, as I was tearing down my own camp at the time.
Whew.....all that to get to the point that that after all that festival magic the teardown and cleanup work was not very much fun but that now I'm sitting on the side of the French Broad River near Asheville and I have time to relax!!! So, of course I will be going downtown tonight to check out a hot zydeco band.....maybe I'll REALLY relax tomorrow.