Dispatches from DelFest: I, II, III, IV (Updated) - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Dispatches from DelFest: I, II, III, IV (Updated)

Welcome to Dispatches from DelFest, a running blog of short features and pictures produced by Chris and Costa Swanson, who are spending four days partying in Western Maryland.

Please check back throughout the weekend for the latest posts and pictures from Cumberland!

Have a question for Chris? Please write it in the comment section and he’ll do his best to answer it.

DelFest Dispatches Part IV: More than music

Let’s take look around, some scenes from The Scene.  DelFest is more than the music onstage, from involvement to artists to characters to experiences – there’s a lot to discover.

A heavy downpour soaked the joint on Friday, leaving a muddy mess on the track surrounding the Grandstand stage field. It could have dampened the spirits, but festival goers follow the motto “just grin and go on." (All photos by Costa Swanson)

A heavy downpour soaked the joint on Friday, leaving a muddy mess on the track surrounding the Grandstand stage field. It could have dampened the spirits, but festival goers follow the motto “just grin and go on.” (All photos by Costa Swanson)

 

The Love Hope Strength Foundation, co-founded by Mike Peters of The Alarm, sets up shop at festivals and concerts to register people for bone marrow donation. Folks between the ages of 18 and 50 can register and get a cheek swab. They are put into a national database of potential donors. Recruiter Robin Pollini explained one of the benefits for her and the artists is getting feedback on how many life-saving matches they generate through their efforts. Those wishing to get on the list can go to lovehopestrength.org to register.

The Love Hope Strength Foundation, co-founded by Mike Peters of The Alarm, sets up shop at festivals and concerts to register people for bone marrow donation. Folks between the ages of 18 and 50 can register and get a cheek swab. They are put into a national database of potential donors. Recruiter Robin Pollini explained one of the benefits for her and the artists is getting feedback on how many life-saving matches they generate through their efforts. Those wishing to get on the list can go to lovehopestrength.org to register.

 

The Dragonfly, a fan-created sculpture made from plastic-bottles and LEDs with the words "Del Yeah" etched into its wings, is perhaps the only thing to surpass mandolinist Sierra Hull in performance drop-ins. The swirling, bouncing insect has become the unofficial festival mascot.

The Dragonfly, a fan-created sculpture made from plastic-bottles and LEDs with the words “Del Yeah” etched into its wings, is perhaps the only thing to surpass mandolinist Sierra Hull in performance drop-ins. The swirling, bouncing insect has become the unofficial festival mascot.

 

Hoopsters are all over DelFest! Twirling gracefully to the music, they are a show within the show. Classes over the weekend helped them hone their skills.

Hoopsters are all over DelFest! Twirling gracefully to the music, they are a show within the show. Classes over the weekend helped them hone their skills.

 

Students who attended the DelFest Academy, a three-day workshop before the festival, formed into bands who competed for a spot to perform on the Grandstand stage.  This year’s winners, the Ag. Pavilion Steamrollers, performed The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” following Del McCoury’s Friday sound check.

Students who attended the DelFest Academy, a three-day workshop before the festival, formed into bands who competed for a spot to perform on the Grandstand stage.  This year’s winners, the Ag. Pavilion Steamrollers, performed The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” following Del McCoury’s Friday sound check.

 

One of the greatest things about music festivals is running into that guy that makes your life seem a little more normal than you previously felt. This festival attendee shows off his device “used to measure and monitor the low frequency brain waves” of the fans.

One of the greatest things about music festivals is running into that guy that makes your life seem a little more normal than you previously felt. This festival attendee shows off his device “used to measure and monitor the low frequency brain waves” of the fans.

 

Feats of wondrous dexterity are revealed!  This young fan is showing a much better ability to remain upright than most of the inebriated participants I saw trying this last night.

Feats of wondrous dexterity are revealed!  This young fan is showing a much better ability to remain upright than most of the inebriated participants I saw trying this last night.

 

Fans found a way to chill by any means necessary at DelFest.

Fans found a way to chill by any means necessary at DelFest.

Dispatches from Del Fest Part III: Mipso, Bruce Hornsby, Railroad Earth and more make for a great Friday and Saturday.

Mipso

Mipso

Friday and Saturday were amazing days of music at Delfest, with so many artists playing we raced from stage to stage trying to take it all in.

North Carolina’s Mipso got the day to rollicking start, with a 10:15 breakfast set on the Potomac stage.

The first-time Delfesters joked of serving musical pancakes, talked about the honor of having previously opened for The Del McCoury Band and put together a one hour set of beautiful Americana music filled with solid, three-part vocal harmonies.

The band introduced a brand new song, Hurt So Good, to the early risers.

“We’re hoping to record a new album this summer, so we’ve been working up some songs,” Libby Rodenbough, Mipso’s violinist, said. “ By the time you’re playing a song from an album you’ve made, the song’s often like a year or two old.  We’ve had a lot of time since the last album to be writing, and we’re chomping at the bit to polish songs, singing them onstage, so we were really excited to have one that’s still fresh.”

Fruition played twice at DelFest. (All photos by Costa Swanson)

Fruition played twice at this year’s DelFest.

Fruition had an afternoon show on the Grandstand stage, a follow up to its Thursday Late night show in DelFest’s indoor Music Hall stage, where the band shared the bill with The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm.

rainWe caught the Grandstand set, which was really good and had the crowd engaged even though a pretty heavy rain had moved in during the performance. With about 15 minutes left in their time slot the storm whipped up strong and started blowing the rain sideways onto the stage, the band tried moving back to keep playing, but eventually the set had to be cut short when the drenched stage became a safety concern.  A tough break, but that the risk of playing outdoors.

 

Maryland’s own Grand Ole’ Ditch, released its new album Unwind Friday at the Music Hall Stage.

Maryland’s own Grand Ole’ Ditch, released its new album Unwind Friday at the Music Hall Stage.

 

Mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull, the show’s official artist-at-large, has been popping up all over DelFest, joining bands for guest drop-ins. Here she is for her own full set on the Potomic stage, with bassist Ethan Jodziewicz.

Mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull, the show’s official artist-at-large, has been popping up all over DelFest, joining bands for guest drop-ins. Here she is for her own full set on the Potomic stage, with bassist Ethan Jodziewicz.

Jay Cobb Anderson, guitarist/vocalist with Fruition, talked about the evolution of their new album, Labor of Love. 

Jay Cobb Anderson, guitarist/vocalist with Fruition, talked about the evolution of their new album, Labor of Love.

“This album was kind of a work in progress for like two years because we were funding it all ourselves.  We did it in a studio in Portland called Cloud City Studios. The engineer Justin Phelps, he’s amazing. We connected with him doing some mastering stuff. Our drummers crazy into recording like and engineering geek, a sound geek, and he hit it off with Justin. So we just started booking time, going down in the studio, and we narrowed down our songs to about twenty we thought were good. With our band we have three different songwirters, Mimi (Naja), Kellen (Asebroek) and I, everyone came to the table with a lot of songs, and we narrowed it to twenty, then we narrowed that down and we recorded like 17. We used some of the tracks to record an EP and the rest to record this LP”

 

Andy Falco, Travis Book, Jeremy Garrett, Andy Hall, and Chris Pandolfi, collectively known as The Infamous Stringdusters tear it up on the Grandstand stage.

Andy Falco, Travis Book, Jeremy Garrett, Andy Hall, and Chris Pandolfi, collectively known as The Infamous Stringdusters tear it up on the Grandstand stage.

 

The 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Group of the Year, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, perform on the Music Hall stage. Dirty Kitchen is Chris Luquette – guitar, Solivan – mandolin/fiddle, Jeremy Middleton- bass, and Mike Munford- banjo.

The 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Group of the Year, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, perform on the Music Hall stage. Dirty Kitchen is Chris Luquette – guitar, Solivan – mandolin/fiddle, Jeremy Middleton- bass, and Mike Munford- banjo.

 

Larry Sparks, who was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame, performed in the music hall with his band The Lonesome Ramblers.

Larry Sparks, who was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame, performed in the music hall with his band The Lonesome Ramblers.

 

Jam band power couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks led their 12-piece ensemble through one of the best performances of the weekend as Friday night’s headlining act on the Grandstand stage.

Jam band power couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks led their 12-piece ensemble through one of the best performances of the weekend as Friday night’s headlining act on the Grandstand stage.

 

Bruce Hornsby and his band The Noisemakers put on a fantastic late afternoon set on Saturday that featured “Celestial Railroad,” a song from his upcoming album “Rehab Reunion” due out in June.

Bruce Hornsby and his band The Noisemakers put on a fantastic late afternoon set on Saturday that featured Celestial Railroad, a song from his upcoming album “Rehab Reunion” due out in June.

Saturday headliners and Jamgrass icons Railroad Earth brought it strong on the Grandstand stage. After a brief power loss to the stage during a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s America guitarist/vocalist Todd Sheaffer, joked that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign was behind it.

Saturday headliners and Jamgrass icons Railroad Earth brought it strong on the Grandstand stage. After a brief power loss to the stage during a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s America guitarist/vocalist Todd Sheaffer, joked that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign was behind it.

Delfest Part II: Del McCoury takes the stage for an impromptu jam

The music Thursday at DelFest kicked off with The Del McCoury Soundcheck, a more or less informal jam session led by Del and his band, and continued through the evening with Elephant Revival, The Wood Brothers, and was capped off by Yonder Mountain String Band.

Del McCroury opened DelFest.

Del McCoury opened DelFest. (All photos by Costa Swanson)

The Del McCoury Band opened the festival Thursday with some traditional bluegrass music. Ron McCoury, Del’s son, joined in the fun on mandolin.  The set included a marriage proposal between two audience members. (She said yes)

The Wood Brothers – Chris on bass and Oliver on guitar – with percussionist Jano Rix, tore it up onstage Thursday night, with a high intensity show of jazz and blues infused folk rock. The Wood Brothers are on tour promoting their latest release Paradise.

Yonder Mountain String Band, who headlines the first night, is doing two sets – one Thursday night and another on Friday.  Yonder’s banjo player, Dave Johnston, has performed at Del Fest six times.

The Wood Brothers played DelFest on Thursday.

The Wood Brothers played DelFest on Thursday.

“I remember being a young and impressionable banjoist, and seeing the Del McCoury Band, and really loving it. And over the years we’ve established a kind of relationship with them, and we’re friends, so coming here to the festival is sort of like a family reunion, or like a really cool get together to mark the beginning of summer with some really great folks.”

DelFest is one of three festivals Yonder is performing at this weekend. The band travels from DelFest to The Dark Star Jubilee, then on to Summercamp festival.

“This particular weekend we’re going to get to hang out a bit, we have a late night show tonight here, then a late-late show tomorrow, so we’re going to be in and around, doing stuff and hanging,” Johnston added.  “It will be fun. Then after that, its sort of like kinda power through, we got to power to Ohio, then to Illinois.  We spend a lot of time traveling and its good, we’re used to it by now.  Memorial Day never used to be like a real working weekend, when we started playing, you know. it didn’t get started until June, now there’s’ a good party on Memorial Day everywhere, so its nice.”

Yonder Mountain String Band will be back in the area for the Merryland Music Fest July on 9-10, at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavillion.

Yonder Mountain String Band's Dave Johnston.

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Dave Johnston.

Delfest Part I: We’re here!

Our squad of three has ventured out from Baltimore this Memorial Day Weekend to Cumberland for DelFest, a four-day festival featuring some of the country’s top bluegrass, Americana and jam bands.

Hosted by bluegrass legend Del McCoury, the ninth edition boasts three stages with rotating musical performances, daily yoga, hooping, arts and crafts, and a slew of other activities to keep the fun times flowing.

Fans turned the Allegany County Fairgrounds into Tent City during DelFest.

Allegany County Fairgrounds was turned into Tent City during DelFest.

Based at the Allegany County Fairgrounds, the picturesque surroundings of western Maryland make a fantastic backdrop to music that sprung from the mountains. The hills echo with the sounds of fiddles, banjos, mandolins and guitars.

Our Thursday festival experience began with the off-site check in, where everyone receives an admission wristband and festival handbook. The lot was overflowing with early birds, eager to get in a stake out a good camping spot. With a line that extended around the building, I guessed we’d end up waiting until sundown just to get in, but the staff there was pretty efficient, and we were through and on our way to the camping lot in under an hour.

General admission camping at DelFest, and most music festivals for that matter, is a scattershot of tents, tarps and canopies. The chaos factor can be part of the charm or a gut-punch to personal serenity depending on your point of view.

Del McCoury greeted fans as they arrived for DelFest in Cumberland on Thursday.

Del McCoury greeted fans as they arrived for DelFest in Cumberland on Thursday.

We’ve managed to get a spot on the edge of the parking lot that allows us to park the car right next to the tent, a lucky score since I saw dozens of folks humping their gear to the distant camping areas. I wondered why this section didn’t fill up before we got there, and found out later that night when the rail line about 30 feet behind us came alive with the chug, creaks, and horns of a freight train.

Rookie mistake on my part, but we’re here now – deal and press on.

My first real surprise of day came when the Master of Ceremonies, Del himself, came putting down the lane in a golf cart, stopping to greet his weekend guest personally. That’s such a classy move, and one of the things I enjoy about this type of music. There just seems to be a sense of humility in so many of the artists.

Ok, so tent’s up gear’s unpacked, hellos given to our new neighbors, time to go check out some music.

To be continued…


About the author

Chris Swanson

Chris Swanson had bled orange and purple since moving to Baltimore in 1985. Swanson, a Catonsville resident and father of four, has a Communications degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Contact the author.
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