SAVORING THE SPIRIT OF SUWANNEE


Steep Canyon Rangers
As the Two High String Band entertained the dance crowd in the field (their second performance of the festival), shortly before 1:00 p.m., the Steep Canyon Rangers took the Main Stage. Wearing matching country shirts with pearl buttons, this bluegrass band sang a brand new banjo tune, written by and featuring Graham Sharp titled "Ranger Danger" but renamed "Suwannee Bugaloo" for the occasion. During one tune about wintertime, lyrics like "the frost is covering up the tress, so I'll wait and I'll wait for the time to come around, it helps melt that snow up off the ground" were difficult to relate to as the weather was almost perfect and the trees were happily swaying a bit in the refreshing breeze, and the magnolia trees were in bloom.


Peter Rowan
The Duhks were playing to a packed crowd in the hot sun at the Dance Stage, singing some songs in French which didn't deter the happy dancers, hot in the sun but feeling the rocking vibe, while a solo Peter Rowan played an acoustic set to a large crowd at the Main Stage area. Peter, barefoot in crab-printed pants, declared he was "glad to be back here in my old stomping grounds... This is home base." Playing mostly crowd favorites like "Land of the Navaho," he also brought out Billy Bright and Bryn Bright to join him, the other two-thirds of his Texas Trio.

We walked down through the Frisbee fields to the Dance Stage where at least 800 people were grooving in the sun while Donna the Buffalo's Tara Nevins was probably baking in her cowboy boots and hat as Jim Lauderdale was performing with the band. Starting only a couple of minutes late of its 3:10 p.m. start, with "This Is The Big Time," they quickly launched into "Wait 'til Spring," (which perhaps could have been renamed "Wait 'til Springfest" to echo the feelings of their herd), before playing "Different Kind of Lightning," "Can't Keep You From Coming Around," "Wo Wo Wo," "Slow Motion Trouble," "Ginger Peach" and "Life By Numbers."


Jim Lauderdale
Jim Lauderdale teased the crowd saying "what am I going to do with you guys, I can't take you anywhere without having a great time, ya'll are a sea of beautiful souls" before launching into a tribute to George Jones and Gram Parsons. He explained that Gram used to play George's records for people and they'd start crying and ask what it was, and he would answer; that's the king of broken hearts, before playing "King of Broken Hearts."

On our way back toward the Main Stage, and through the vending area, we discovered that many kids had deemed the sandy thoroughfare "the world's largest sandbox." Being careful not to step on any little toes or fingers, we made our way to several of the booths where we found a few treasures, including beaded bracelets and hats to add to our collections, before returning to the Main Stage for the Bluegrass Session with Bela Fleck, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Peter Rowan, Mike Marshall and Bryn Bright. Randy Judy announced the group and stated, "Please look out for each other and yourselves as the crowd gets larger today and please take care of the park." Our crowd is the best there is, he said, "You are the real spirit of the festival, because without you, it is just trees and grounds."


Bela Fleck
The crowd did continue to swell and the band kicked the set off with a crowd favorite, "Long Journey Home," as the audience sang along to the chorus of "I lost all my money but a two dollar bill." Peter included unique introductions to each musician within the song's verses, "Vassar Clements, play that Fiddle now," "Bela Fleck on the five-string banjo," "Mike Marshall he plays the mandolin," "Tony Rice plays the big guitar," before featuring Vassar on a tune called "Vassar's Fiddle Rag," off the album Old & In the Gray. Peter then announced the old Kentucky race horse song, "Molly and Tenbrooks," before asking Mike what he had picked out for them to perform, joking that Mike had picked his brains out last night, so he might not have anything left. In homage to the Suwannee Music Park itself, the place he said the Stanley Brothers used to call home, they performed a tribute "How Mountain Girls Can Love" and finally, a newer tune, "Trumpets of the Ocean."

On the Dance Stage at 6:30 p.m., the humorous and high energy quintet from San Francisco, The Waybacks, kicked off another festival set with "Down From Iona," "Gulshion Island" and "Police Dog Blues" from their album Burger After Church. Announcing it was their first time at Springfest and it was so wonderful that they hoped to come back, they opened by commenting that it was kin to their favorite festival on the West, thereby declaring it "the Strawberry of the South." Followed by "Been Around" from their CD Devolver and wrapping into "Nature Boy," the crowd's energy continued to build. Although we hadn't requested it, their timing was then humorously appropriate in playing "Monkey Pants" as we brushed off the ants on our backsides after we accidentally sat in a huge and angry ant pile.


Tony Rice & Mike Marshall
Extremely funny and mega talented jamgrassers with both a focus on traditional tunes and new interpretations, we deemed them our special "festival find." While other festivarians were over at the Main Stage watching the Tony Rice Unit, we enjoyed this extremely hot set and unanimously agreed that they would be the perfect fit to open for The String Cheese Incident anytime. With James Nash's mandolin homage's to traditional music, including versions of old Irish drinking and battle songs (with dueling violin and guitar solos) their sound was infectious. Continuing with a song off their most recent album, Way Live, called "They Tried To Kill Us, We Survived (Let's Eat)" the energy further fused. Even somewhat sarcastic in their commentary as they stated "let's do the Howard Dean, we're going to go to Florida, Alabama and Georgia," their creative excitement and infectious groove brought on the dusk with style, as the stars started appearing to join the not-yet-full moon in the sky. Stevie Coyle, the amazing guitar finger-picker mentioned a t-shirt he had noticed in the crowd that said "show us your rifts," and commented that it was almost as good as the one that says "I am the man from Nantucket" before ending the set by asking the crowd to be careful out there, because you don't know who you might bump into, it's dark and there are girls!


Del McCoury Band

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