Friday April 16
Waking up on Friday morning was like shifting from one dream state to another. There was simply music everywhere. From the new Acoustic Café built alongside the Bistro to random groups of pickers peppered across the festival grounds, it was hard to imagine a friendlier scene for such a gathering of people. Sunny skies, smiling faces, and a schedule packed with great bands made for a morning full of anticipation. Barefoot got in an early set, while Ami Worthen's Mad Tea Party featured her retro novelty jazz on a variety of vintage instruments and tunes. Her husband Jason Krekel, who also sat in with Snake Oil Medicine Show at the festival, played guitar while they toured through the happy sounds of the '20s and '30s with aplomb.
Ami Worthen's Mad Tea Party
The Delta folk blues of Ben Suchy led to a solo set by Donna the Buffalo keyboardist and vocalist Kathy Ziegler. Adding a guitar and a loop machine to her act enabled her to start a song on one instrument and then riff on top of it with the other, all while singing heartfelt Americana ballads sprinkled with homegrown nuances. The Never was simultaneously on another stage blasting out their modern pop rock, followed by the Afro-Caribbean buoyancy of the Sim Redmond Band. Singer Uniit Carruyo is married to Kevin Kinsella, the lead singer of John Brown's Body, as well as also being a member of Five Two, whose other two members sat in with Redmond to add their angelic harmony vocals to the uplifting tones. The band coasted and soared on the sound, breezily blending the roots of Africa with an optimistic outlook and a melodic musicality.
Sim Redmond Band
Project Mastana unleashed their danceable Indian/African rhythms, while the Blue Rags staged a rare reunion of their punkgrass collective. Guitarist Abe Reid now fronts the Spikedrivers, while bassist Bill Reynolds is a recent addition to Donna the Buffalo. They reunited to tear through a raucous set of electrified acrobatics. 12-year old rapper Lil MaQ was up next, followed by the old-time bluegrass classics and deep originals of Steep Canyon Rangers. Keith Frank, Preston's son, led his Soileau Zydeco Band through a positively pumping set of soulful tunes. Even more energetic than his dad's band, Keith Frank's music features a funkiness and happy snap that pumps out pure energy into the crowd, even landing at one point on the Meters' foot-stomping "Cissy Strut."
The dark country funk and Halloween bluegrass of The Horseflies came next. This unique conglomeration ranges from old-time mountain stomps to island jazz rhythmic augmentations, from intangible fiddle flourishes to avant-garde dissonance. Their captivating set led into a honky-tonk hoedown with Jim Lauderdale, featuring Donna the Buffalo as his band. They tore through "Life By Numbers" and "Wait 'Til Spring" before Preston Frank sat in for the locomotive-like grind of "Whoa Whoa Whoa." They encored with Larry Williams' "Slow Down" as attention shifted over to the Music Makers Foundation showcase. Music Makers is a local charity that helps old bluesmen pay their bills and keep making music. Cool John Ferguson's exalting electric exuberances ripped through the audience like a soundwave, as he headlined a set that also included Captain Luke, Macavine Hayes, and Whistlin' Britches.
Keith Secola & Wild Band of Indians combined rock 'n' roll with a Native American sensibility, adding flute and indigenous drums to their world beat vision. An inspirational eclectic soundscape is the goal, as their hopeful lyrics aim for a unified world. Legendary old-time heroes the Red Hots traced out their trancegrass transgressions as Two Dollar Pistols poured out a set of desperate, rollicking cowboy country blues. Fusion aces Jaafar took the stage to feature their mystical mind meld of Eastern and Western cultures. Bandleader and acoustic bassist Troy Cole led the charge of these sonic superheroes, as they combined the spiritual aestheticism of the abstract world with the force and driving power of Western rock. Guitarist Matt Parker was making his debut performance with the band, but nobody in the crowd could have guessed, as his double-neck guitar gambles floored everyone there to witness it.
Calton Coffie took the stage for a set of rhythmic reggae, even running through Outkast's "Hey Ya." His set also included the song that cemented him in history. "Bad Boys," by his former group Inner Circle, was chosen as the theme song for the TV show Cops, immortalizing the band forever in the pop lexicon. Some members of Donna the Buffalo appeared as Zydeco Experiment to take a stab at the more danceable areas of their catalog, while Snake Oil Medicine Show brought their art and sound explosion to a late night stage filled with voracious musical voyeurs. Mixing their sound from seemingly every musical genre on earth, these thrift store troubadours effortlessly entwine bluegrass, jazz, swing, funk, and world music into an amazing amalgam of banjo, fiddle, and sweet neo-retro vocals. They even feature a painter onstage, creating art in real time from the sounds encircling the stage. The night grew late as the woods came alive with the music of these merry mountaineers serenading the kids, crickets, and every critter in between.