Another MerleFest done, and it was a fun, music-filled weekend as always. Managed to see quite a bit, and my ‘doodling’ tradition continues with fifteen new sketches from what I saw this year. I posted these on my Instagram as the festival was unfolding, but here I’m offering up better quality scanned versions to enjoy, along with a few notes on each artist.
Mandolin Orange: An old personal favorite, it was great to see them get a spot on the Watson Stage this year. Andrew and Emily sound so good together, and the full band lineup really expands their songs live.
Mark Bumgarner: Not a household name, this songwriter nonetheless captured a morning Hillside audience with great songs. I don’t usually draw mouths much, but his was so expressive I attempted to include it.
Megan Nash: Canadian and proud of it, her stories of life in the hinterlands of Saskatchewan were amusing if a little foreign to the MerleFest crowd. Great voice, affecting songs, and full of personality.
Darrin and Brook Aldridge: Stellar playing, great harmony singing, and solid traditional bluegrass foundation made this Creekside Stage set a pleasant early morning one.
The Stray Birds: Second time seeing (and drawing) this act at MerleFest, I love their take on Americana/roots music and they keep getting better, just like my drawings of them.
Peter Rowan: The patriarch of MerleFest these days, Peter is always a must-see at least once over the weekend, and I got to one of his sets as well as seeing him with Donna the Buffalo.
Chatham County Line: Another act I’ve seen multiple years at MerleFest, I love the authentic vibe these guys evoke even as they add new, original tunes to the bluegrass repertoire.
Locust Honey: Didn’t get to the Traditional Stage as much as I have in years past, but this group was a highlight for me there, second time I’ve seen them at MerleFest. This was one of my personal favorite doodles from this year, also.
Mipso: This act was all over the place this year, somehow I only caught one set from them, a great one at the Hillside Stage on Sunday. Another favorite doodle from this year’s crop.
Sarah Jarozs: Stately, beautiful songs from Sarah on the Watson Stage this year; she played several instruments, pictured her here with banjo.
Sierra Hull: Another lovely set, with just Hull and a bassist accompanying her.
Sam Bush Band: He’s played all 30 years, and it’s worth seeing him every year… great set from Sam and company this time around.
Avett Family: The Avett Brothers were around all four days this year with headlining sets, a Doc Watson tribute, workshops, but the only one I did a drawing for was the Sunday morning gospel set with their dad Jim Avett and sister Bonnie Rainey along with several other musicians. A wonderful way to start a Sunday, for sure.
The Steel Wheels: Discovered this band a few years back at one of my first MerleFest weekends, so glad to see them back here again with new tunes and the same great sound.
Zac Brown Band: Wasn’t prepared to enjoy this big country star’s set as much as I did, but the all-acoustic setup made it more palatable and homespun even as he sang that silly Jimmy Buffett duet without Jimmy. A good finish to a great weekend at MerleFest.