My first published piece of music criticism came out in 1987, and even though the NC music festival now known as Merlefest began the very next year, the 2012 edition is my first time making the trip to Wilkesboro. I’ve already been mistaken for a multi-year attendee due to my knowledge of the acts performing, I guess, but I’ve been asking just as many questions of them as they have of me, from “where’s the best bathroom?” to where the various stages and tents are located. The map included in the program makes everything look much bigger than it really is, though, so getting around hasn’t been a problem so far…once the real crowds start coming in on Saturday I’m sure that will change.
The scope of the festival itself is the first thing that impresses a newbie. It’s not the biggest one around but they certainly seem to cram as much as possible into the space and time they have available. From jam session tents to a “Little Pickers” section for the kids, there’s something for everyone, especially music.
Thursday may be the official start to the festival but it is a little lighter on the music schedule–a plus for me since I could get acclimated to the environment without trying to scurry around to every stage catching different acts.
I’m here this year covering the festival for Country Standard Time‘s website, where they’re posting my daily reviews here. As I mention there, the most impressive act so far has to have been the bluegrass/acoustic act Steel Wheels, and lucky for me they’ll be playing again today so I can confirm that opinion.