Charm City Bluegrass doubles down with two-day festival

Break out your banjos, fiddles and dancing shoes good citizens of Baltimore, the Charm City Bluegrass Festival returns to Druid Hill Park on Friday and Saturday.

Let’s have a look at what to expect from this award winning-festival, which has grown to become one of the great

Lucia Turino, Pete Bernhard and Cooper McBean, collectively known as The Devil Makes Three, will be headlining the Charm City Bluegrass Festival in support of their latest album “Redemption & Ruin” on Saturday night. (The Devil Makes Three)

kickoff  events to the outdoor music season in Baltimore.

More is Better

This year marks the first time the festival will expand to a two-day event.

“We really wanted to be able to add an additional day for our customers who have been very loyal to our festival,” Phil Chorney, the festival’s organizer, said. “It’s seemed like having only one day with all the equipment in place was a waste, so we felt like it was in the best interests to get even more people involved, the opportunity for more people to come and see more music.  It seemed like the natural progression based on where our growth was going with the event.”

For those who can’t get enough music, the after-parties have doubled up this year, too.

“‘We’ve worked closely with the 8×10 for years, the ability to bring a wide variety of music to folks so we can continue their Charm City experience,” Chorney said. “It’s really something unique. Better Off Dead is doing an interesting Dead Reckoning set (on Friday) as part of their thee sets of music paying tribute to Jerry Garcia’s bluegrass sound, so that’s super cool.  And Jeff Austin Band with Man About A Horse for the after party on Saturday.”

Jeff Austin Band will also be doing a set at the festival on Saturday afternoon.

Remember Where it Came From

In a nod to Baltimore’s prominent place in bluegrass history, Friday night will feature a primetime set dubbed the Baltimore Traditions Show.

“The Baltimore traditions set is something we put together to bring the folks who were kind of the centerpieces of the Baltimore bluegrass music scene in the 70s back together on one stage with Ronnie and Robbie McCoury,” Adam Kirr, who is on the festival’s management team, said. “There father (Del) who back in the 60s and 70s would come through Baltimore quite often and sit with these particular guys and a lot more back during that time when he was still rising in the scene,” “We thought it was a cool angle to tell the story of how Baltimore was this major centerpiece of the bluegrass industry. It was really us and Nashville in the 60s and 70s for bluegrass music. So we’re a Baltimore company, we’re a Baltimore festival. We just wanted to bring awareness to the fact that we do have this iconic music in our blood. It’s a really cool thing we were able to pull together with the McCourys and these Baltimore musicians.”

Brothers Robbie (banjo) and Ron (mandolin) McCoury will headline Friday night with their band The Travelin’ McCourys and host the Baltimore Traditions set, featuring legends of Baltimore bluegrass community at this weekend’s Charm Cityt Bluegrass Festival. (Costa Swanson)

The McCoury brothers will be joined by special guests Warren Blair, fiddle/vocals, Jon Glik, fiddle; Dee Gunter, guitar/vocals; Russ Hooper, dobro; Jerry McCoury, bass/vocals; Tom Neil, banjo/vocals; and Dick Smith, mandolin to hearken back to Baltimore’s bluegrass heyday with some classic playing and a little reminiscing.

“It’s something at the festival that we’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years”, Chorney explained, “and this year is the first time that all the pieces really came together to do it with this particular group of musicians.”

More Than Just The Main Stage

Man cannot live on grass alone.

While this concept may be up for debate, there’ll also be plenty to eat, drink, and peruse for your shopping pleasure.  It’s a point of pride for the festival organizers to highlight a great selection of Baltimore tastes and wares.

“We try to incorporate the local crafts and local food that we can find,” Chorney said. “We’ll try to find different things, but still bringing back the staples that have become festival favorites. What’s great is to work with places like The Charmery (ice cream)and Union Craft Brewing and Brick Fire Pizza, they always do something special for the event, be it Union brewing a special release beer, Charmery always does a flavor, this year its a blueberry lemongrass sorbet flavor. They all want to be as involved, and they’re lovers of music themselves.”

Kids welcome

The festival also strive to be very kid and family friendly.

Kids 10 and under get in free at this weekend’s Charm Cityt Bluegrass Festival. (Chris Swanson)

“This year we’re adding a kids play area, with an area for new moms to relax, to allow them to take a load off with their newborn and still enjoy the festival,” Chorney said. “These really opens up the festival to more people, and with kids 10 and under being free, it’s really an opportunity to bring the whole family out. We want to get these experiences started at a young age, enjoying live concerts.”

There’ll be yoga sessions with Yoga Works, massage therapy by Hannah Hazletine if you need to work out the kinks from dancing all day, face painting and a slew of shops with everything from tye dyes, to Maryland-themed goods.

And of course, vendors like Appalachian Bluegrass Shop will be selling instruments.

Patrons are encouraged to bring their instruments with them and several workshops are planned throughout the weekend along with many open jamming sessions.

“It’s making sure that the music that we love, just as fans, gets out there,” Kirr said. “Bluegrass has really progressed into a lot of different sub-genres and there’s some really creative amazing movements happening in the bluegrass scene that we want to make sure people know about. Kind of build the audience for these particular artists that we love. You know there’s a lot of crappy music out there in our opinion and we want to make sure people are seeing some bands that feature some incredible musicians just in terms of those shear chops and they’re also creating beautiful music. At the core of it, that’s what it means to me.”

Tickets can be purchased here.