Confessions and Observations of a MerleFest Rookie, Part II

It’s Saturday morning now and I’m told this will be the busy day at MerleFest…judging from the chairs and blankets already arranged on the Watson Stage lawn, I’d say that would be correct–the lawn area is about 30 yards away from being full and it’s only 10 a.m.

Walking around MerleFest is a music lover’s dream, as you’re serenaded with songs from every corner of the festival grounds. As I was walking from stage to stage yesterday the sounds just melted into each other like scents on the wind, leaving me following them with my ears instead of my nose.

The best things I saw yesterday were the sets from Steel Wheels (Again, probably the best new act I’ve found here), Tara Nevins‘ set at the Traditional tent along with a stage full of pickers and players backing her up (Who was that young girl singing harmonies, and where can I hear more from her?), and Sam Bush‘s late night set on the Watson stage.

Bush’s set accounted for what will probably be the most talked about moment at this year’s MerleFest–the semi-reunion of most of the 80’s version of New Grass Revival. With Bela Fleck and John Cowan playing earlier on the same stage it was the worst kept rumor, that the three would end up playing together at some point, but it was still a pleasant surprise to hear them do a lengthy version of “Up on Cripple Creek” in memory of Levon Helm.

As a rookie, I was bound to forget a few things or not bring stuff I might need, not knowing I’d need it. The stuff I left behind, however, was the basics–my bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant is probably still sitting where I left it at home, for example. I did stop in at the local Lowes Foods store to pick up replacements (My camp-mates are glad of that, I’m sure.), but I’ve improvised a replacement for the pillow I also left behind, out of a coat and sweatshirt–worked pretty good last night, as I had a full 7 hours of sleep–more than I usually get at home.

Met another pair of rookies on the bus from the Sewerfest campground this morning, Andrew and Rachel, who came all the way from Perth, Australia just to attend MerleFest. They are budding bluegrass musicians themselves (check out Rachel at www.racheldillon.com.au, she plays folk, country, and blues styles according to the card she gave me. We chatted on the way to the festival about Australian and American music and discovered we have mutual love for both Paul Kelly and John Prine, two great songwriters from our respective countries.

For all the music that I’ve seen so far and will yet see, I think it will be those chance meetings and friendships formed over a campfire that stay with me the longest, once MerleFest 25 is done.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions and Observations of a MerleFest Rookie, Part II

  1. Kevin, I told you that you were a “nubie” (not a rookie) when we sat behind you at the Hillside. We had a great time on Saturday, finally packed it in about 11 pm when it got too darned cold for us middle aged folk. (There is no bad weather, only poor equipment). I look forward to your thoughts on the album hour, sorry I wasn’t able to predict the album choice, but hey, that’s half the fun.

    Joe

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