Thursday, September 3, 2009

a final look at the 1st newgrass festival.......

The biggest thanks for the 1st Annual International Newgrass Festival being held has to go to my buddy, Kenny Lee (Smith). A few minutes after I learned of the festival last winter I was on the phone with Kenny Lee, diggin' what he was telling me and mostly diggin' the idea that the festival was "all about Sam". Over the months we became friends via emails and phone calls and I was damned anxious to meet him in person! He is a big fan and longtime friend of Sam's, as well as being a bandmate in Duckbutter; and man, can he play a slide guitar! >g<



I advertised the festival over the months as much as I could and was kind of surprised that I wasn't garnering more interest...but after all, this was a first year festival and by the time most folks learned of it their vacation plans were probably set or they simply heard of it too late. I was excited about the friends that I knew were coming and if I didn't so well business-wise, at least I knew that a good time would be had! (and I far exceeded that expectation..>g<)

The fact that the festival was small enabled lots of folks to meet and become friends....the festival had a pretty intimate feel to it, while offering a fabulous musical lineup! The venue was sweet, and both John and Katie Ballance were excited about holding the first musical event on their land...they are used to holding events; John had built a motocross track and up to 13 races a year were held there. They were not familiar with any of the music, but they became big fans quickly after hearing what they had been missing! And I love the fact that they are interested in becoming a music/festival/concert venue as well. A finer young couple you will not find...and I look forward to working and hanging with them again next year!

John was concentrating and enjoying Act of Congress...



John and Katie...



The venue...

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Sunrise through the fog...



Our camp during the sunrise. Lynn and I were the only people on the site at night the first two nights we were there...a new friend joined us on Wednesday night!



A beautiful Kentucky sunset...


Grace and Lynn and I were the signage crew...Grace's dad, Scott, quickly became a friend when he joined us on site on Wednesday night. He is a longtime Greyfox attendee who came to the Newgrass Festival with his vendor booth featuring ice cream/Italian ice and pretzels. Grace flew for the first time by herself to the festival and she also got her first truck driving lesson at the festival...>g<



Lucy is the kind of friend that you wish lived lots closer to you! She lives in Oklahoma, is a longtime friend of Sam's, and presents yoga classes at various festivals around the country. Her favorite festival, along with mine, is Greyfox.
I love Lucy...



Festivalyoga.com is where you can check out Lucy's gig. Her friend Pete, who came from Minnesota, played sweet quiet bass during the sessions...



I met John and Chas McBroom at Floydfest; John is the Production Manager and I do believe that Chas works there also. They came from Virginia as friends and customers, and after experiencing the festival with us, they became even closer friends...there was much giggling.



And my longtime festival buddy from Wisconsin, Maple Al, even was there! Al and I go way back, festival-wise, getting together at Mole Lake, Telluride, Rockygrass, and other smaller festivals here in Wisconsin. We were both glad that he took my advice and came to the Newgrass! He produces the best damned maple syrup there is...I prefer the Grade "B". >g<



Mary and Gregg Scott rode a train to the Newgrass Festival from California! Mary and I have been cyper friends for a few years now..we met because of our mutual fanship of Sam. It was a pleasure to finally meet her in person...we even kicked up our heels together!



These were the first folks to set up their chairs at the 1st Newgrass Festival! They were making sure...>g<



Raelan was my new dance partner! She is cuter than cute at seven years old and hung on for dear life while I was spinning her around...it was the first time she had ever danced with a partner and she did lots of squealing with delight!



In conclusion...I can admit that I have never had more fun at any festival! The combination of a first festival "all about..." a musical hero and friend of mine and the fact that it turned out to be a magical musical historical event for everyone in attendance was damned near "over the top". Sam grew up just a few miles from the festival site and the crowd was filled with his family and old buddies, all who had come to help celebrate his musical talents and influence. (plus, we can't overlook the contributions of the other Newgrass musicians over the years...Curtis, Courtney, John, Bela, Ebo Walker, and Pat Flynn))I met alot of those folks were in on the Newgrass Revival beginnings, even including Sam and John's ex-wives, Liz and Kathy; who still are big fans. I met Hazel Johnson, whose husband Courtney was the original Newgrass banjo player, and who is herself a marvelous mandolin picker. I am damned proud of the fact that Lynn and I played a pivotal role in getting the festival off the ground, especially on-site; and I can't wait to do it again! I don't think that it's much of a stretch to predict that this festival will grow quickly to become one of the class festivals in the country.

Showing off our collector's t-shirts on the Monday after the festival....we were both glowing. >g<



Oh....does anyone recognize/know this lovely lady? She thanked me for "capturing her essence" in this photo...and I gotta' love a person with an obvious sense of humor that she possesses!



Damn...what a festival!!

Peace, David

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

newgrass festival musical finale....

I would say that it is a rare festival that I'm not most looking forward to the Sam Bush Band set...in fact, it has really never happened before! (Oh wait...there were those years of New Grass Revival...) But after learning from Kenny Lee back in April that on Sunday all blues hell was going to break loose, and why, I definitely was fired up by the fact that Duckbutter was going to close the festival!

I was staying overnight in Nashville many years ago, on my way to a Florida festival, when I noticed in the listings of musical events happening that night....."Duckbutter (Sam Bush & John Cowan)"; playing at 3rd & Lindsley. I had never heard of this band, but of course Sam and John were good enough for me! >g< At this point I hadn't listened to much rock 'n roll/rhythm 'n blues for a long time, but that was about to change! By the time the last of four sets started that night there weren't many folks in the club anymore, and I was actually sitting with my feet resting on the stage for part of the set...and I think I heard damned near most of the rockin' bluesy songs that I knew of and they were all played with a fervor! Since that night it's been a wish of mine to have both Lynn and my good buddy Mapleal hear Duckbutter...and this dream was realized when both of them were at the Newgrass Festival! (I knew it would make them smile...)

I also found at the festival that it was Kenny Lee who started the band, back around 1981. I had heard that Duckbutter was Sammy's excuse to wail on his electric guitar..at the 3rd & Lindsley that night there was a sign on stage depicting a mandolin with a slash through it; no mandolins allowed that night! These guys don't play together often; in fact from what I hear it's a rare and special occasion when they do. They obviously are good longtime buddies and just as obviously they are all musical masters. And they have sooo much fun!

Duckbutter includes Kenny Lee (Smith) on guitar, Sam on guitar, Byron House on bass, John Cowan on bass, but mostly vocals, Jeff Jones on drums, and Reese Wyans on keyboards. Reese was well known as the keyboardist for the Stevie Ray Vaughn Band.

Kenny Lee & Sam...



Sam & John...



The Man can get intense...>g<



Reese...



John and Byron...



Byron was havin' fun...



Kenny Lee can play guitar using a banana as a slide....



..or a chair



or even a banana-covered condom! (did I mention that Kenny Lee is a character? >g<)



Sam, Jeff, and John....




And there was a special guest, 11 year old Nick Williams! The young musician was a definite hit....

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So....a hotter finish to a hot festival couldn't happen, in my book! And when Kenny Lee asked for advice concerning the festival in the coming years, I had a bunch of ideas; and the two that I'm sure will happen are these: Sam closes on Saturday night, and Duckbutter closes the festival!

Peace, David

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

newgrass festival....day 3

After two days of excellent music and excellent weather, Day 3 was poised to rock!! Oh man....the excitement had been building, new friendships were popping up all over the place, and everyone in attendance was eagerly anticipating a big finish!

The day started out with a very sweet set led by Hazel Johnson, widow of the original New Grass Revival banjo picker, Courtney Johnson. Hazel is a wonderful person, who according to her bandmate, Mark Whitley, knows more fiddle tunes than anyone!

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Hazel, Mark Whitley, and David Foster...



Safire Sun was the next group up on Sunday, and I was not at all familiar with them. The two fellows in the group were original members of the Bluegrass Alliance; this was a very fine band, handpicked by Curtis....

Safire Sun...



Unfortunately I have no photos of the Kentucky School of Bluegrass. Curtis Burch is an instructor at the college, and the performance by the students was super! I do wish my camera wasn't having battery issues at this time....

The Farewell Drifters were the last acoustic/newgrass/bluegrass kind of band at the festival. I have seen and heard these young fellows at a few different festivals now, including Merlefest, Greyfox, and Floydfest and I'm enjoying the heck out of their music. They also have a fine stage presence, and they obviously are having fun with their music. I expect to see them often in the future....




And then all blues/electric music broke out! This was started by the Michael Gough Band, joined by Mr. Curtis Burch himself. It was a fun set...I understand that Michael is a blues fixture in the area, and a great lead-in to the next band!

Curtis...laying on the steel!



I will be expounding on the final act of the festival, Duckbutter, in the next blog!

Peace, David

Friday, August 28, 2009

newgrass festival....day 2

The second day of the festival started with a young band that I hadn't heard of, Act of Congress. They are from the state of Alabama, and feature a very progressive acoustic style and sound...they reminded me alot of Nickel Creek. They have one cd out, entitled "Declaration"..and I'm liking it! I do appreciate a band who writes all their own material....

A small sample of Act of Congress....

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Next up was the IIIrd Tyme Out, a traditional kick-ass bluegrass band that I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing/hearing for too many years...for some strange reason we haven't crossed paths lately. Great pickin', great vocals, and great songs add up to a tasty set...



The next three bands featured the three Newgrass Revival boys and their own bands; starting with the Curtis Burch Band. Both Lynn and I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Curtis, who is both a fine musician and a fine man. He spends part of his time teaching music at a Kentucky college that offers a course in traditional music.

Dr. Dobro...

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Then came Johnny C.! I have been amazed at the man's voice since I first heard it at the ol' Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival, near my home here in Wisconsin. I've been really diggin' his band of the last few years, which includes Shad Cobb, brother of Jesse and of course a former member of the Cobb Brothers. (many years ago...>g< I saw this family back when all the boys were barely teenagers back in the early 90s; they are natives of Wisconsin.)

The man can still wail...!



He added a mandolin picker...!



And then of course it was time for the closing set! Sammy stepped up to the plate, as they say in his baseball world, and knocked it out of the park.... I have never been disappointed with a Sam Bush show and really never expect to. The Man was on fire as usual...plus the fact that this festival was all about him, which I'm sure added a bit of spark. He had a great time on stage, going through some new songs that will be on his upcoming cd, lots of regular "Sammy" songs, some straight bluegrass, and a few old NGR songs when his buddy John joined him on stage. I liked it...>g<

Gettin' down...



Sam and Byron...



Spider John is my name, friends...



So---Day 2 finished with a bang! After Sam's set Lynn and I got to visit him and Lynn a bit; he always had lots of friends, fans, and family around who wanted his attention, and he did his best to accomodate. We went back to our campsite in a joyful mood and actually listened to a little campground jammin' before crashing in our tent. Sure was a full, magnificent day of music!

Peace, David

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the newgrass festival...part 2

Curtis Burch and Kenny Lee put together a fabulous lineup! I knew this was going to be good long before it happened....and it was even better than I thought. >g<
Day 1 opened with Larry Keel & Natural Bridge. I have seen/heard Larry many times over the years at various festivals, and dig his music. He has a wonderfully rough voice and a unique guitar style and he always has a great band put together.

Larry Keel & Natural Bridge leading off the festival....



Larry and his wife Jenny...



The Infamous Stringdusters followed Larry, and they are one of my favorite young bands...I am a big fan. I was hoping to visit a bit with Jesse Cobb, who I knew back when he was a teenager with his family band, but apparently they split the festival soon after playing; I'm sure to another gig somewhere. A very inventive, superb band....

The Infamous Stringdusters....



Jesse Cobb and Travis Book...



The Infamous Stringdusters and the Friday afternoon audience....

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The Grascals were next on Friday, and they are one hot bluegrass band! I was enjoying their show when I noticed Mr. Bush making his way to the backstage, where he soon picked up his mandolin, indicating to me that the festival was about to get hotter!

The Grascals and Sam....



Sam and his buddy Danny Roberts having some mandolin fun...

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Cadillac Sky followed the Grascals, and unfortunately I have no videos or photos of their performance. This was the first time hearing them for me, and while I didn't take to them at all at first, once I moved back farther and wasn't blasted by the music that in my mind was presented way too loud, I could see that if I gave them more time I may become more of a fan.

The Greencards closed Friday night and I am a big fan of theirs! Another one of those young hot bands that is always a pleasure to see and hear. And guess what? Sam also joined them for a few tunes and they made sure that everyone knew what a priviledge is it for them to have Sam join them. Again, unfortunately, I have no photos of them and Sammy...I was really having some camera/batteries issues goin' on at that time! I did manage to take a couple of decent photos of them before Sam joined them...



I'll work on the second day of the festival later....

Peace, David

1st annual Newgrass Festival!

Back in March I regrettably came to the conclusion that I had to drop a couple of festivals from my schedule, as they were just not good for my business. (I have no clue why those two haven't been successful....and all the others have been.) It wasn't long after this decision that I received an email from a friend/patron, telling me of a new festival that I probably would be interested in....and she was right! I have since worked and become friends with Kenny Lee (Smith), the producer of the International Newgrass Festival...and it has been a hoot! When he told me in our first phone conversation that the festival is "all about Sam" (Bush), I knew that this was a festival for me! Kenny Lee is a longtime friend and bandmate of Sam's...I found out during the festival that actually Kenny Lee started the band Duckbutter back in the early 80s; more on them later.

Kenny Lee



And if this festival was "all about Sam", I should start with his contribution! He showed up on Friday, after telling Kenny Lee on Thursday night that he wanted to do some pickin' with friends....I was elated to hear this! On Friday afternoon he joined the Grascals on stage and tore it up Sammy-style, with a traditional-bluegrass taste. During his first solo the tears of joy were streaming down my cheeks....


Sammy tearin' it up, traditional-bluegrass style...

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Sam and the Grascals....



Sam giggin' with his buddy; the John Cowan Band



Sam receiving accolades and proclamations from the county judge....Sam agreed to agree about anything the judge said. >g<



Sam and Byron during the Saturday night closer...



The Man was havin' a good time...



The encore...

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Jammin' with Duckbutter...

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Sam, John, and Kenny Lee....



Sam and Duckbutter drummer Jeff Jones....



Sam is The Man.....and it is fitting to hold a festival that is "all about Sam"! Thanks, Sammy, for your music and your attitude and your friendship.

Part 2 will be on the way later...

Peace, David