Pert Near Sandstone’s Nate Sipe’s Top 5 Highlights From Blue Ox Music Festival 2015


Mandolin/fiddle player Nate Sipe of Pert Near Sandstone shares his top five festival highlights from Blue Ox Music Festival 2015 — the band is once again co-curating the lineup and performing twice throughout the three-day festival this June 9 – 11. Tickets are available here.

When Pert Near Sandstone was approached to curate Blue Ox, a bluegrass festival in our home region, it was a dream come true. The roots and acoustic community that we grew up with in Minneapolis and the surrounding region gave us a lasting ideal of bands supporting each other and collaborating to create a stronger live music scene locally and across the country. The spirit of the musical community of the great north is so collective and DIY — it’s what this isolated region requires. There was so much of this spirit in our community and early experiences traveling with groups like Trampled By Turtles and Charlie Parr, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, White Iron Band, and others — it was inspiring.

Blue Ox gives us the opportunity to showcase the great local bands from this region alongside new artists we have encountered in other pockets around the country. To us the festival is a continuation of this tradition of community building by connecting great people to great music. We are thrilled to bring music of this caliber to the upper Midwest at a festival that is family-friendly and blessed to be set in such a beautiful campground. I think everyone involved is able to achieve a great balance between the music and the revelry, the campgrounds and the concert bowl, the family areas and the late night jams … We learned a ton from year one and still feel it is a dream come true as we head toward year two!

Nate Sipe’s Top 5 Highlights From Blue Ox Music Festival 2015

1. Sam Bush sitting-in with us was surreal. To have the reigning laureate of bluegrass and onstage collaboration join your band for one of your songs is a moment not to be taken for granted. Sam is a great player and a down-to-earth guy who has more stories that he can rattle off relating to players and songs than just about anyone I have met. He is a natural performer, but one who takes his work seriously. It was cool to see him warming up to our music backstage before joining us, like he wanted to understand our groove and find a part, not just step up and wow everyone with fancy riffs, then quicklybe off. Sam is an inspiration to the current music scene in an unparalleled way. We are thrilled to have him back for Blue Ox 2016!

2. Seeing Del McCoury getting wheeled up backstage through the mud while hanging off the back of a golf cart like a bluegrass gladiator on a chariot, with his tailored suit and spotless shoes: that was a sight to behold! Having that legendary high-lonesome tenor voice echoing off the surrounding pine trees just affirmed that we were doing the right thing at the right place.

3. Looking out to the sky exploding with the setting sun, the willow tree and pond beside us, and a sea of audience spreading into the field of our first annual Blue Ox Music Festival was undeniably the best feeling of the weekend. It was a dream come true of 20 years ago when I bought my first acoustic instruments and decided that traveling and meeting other people to share music with was what I wanted to do with my life. We are all congregated and connected by our love of bluegrass, folk and roots music in all its branches and offshoots, and this festival seems to bring it home to our friends and families in a way we couldn’t have dreamed up.

4. Wandering around the campground late at night and seeing all the jamming around campfires was incredible. With so many bands from the local music scene involved, I was not surprised that there was some late night noise, but there was so much music and camaraderie all over the campground! So many festivals do not have jamming, instead have car radios or worse. The real music being made by friends, in my opinion, is endemic of a positive festival and thriving community. It reminds me of the MBOTMA Festival (Minnesota Bluegrass & Old Time Association) where Pert Near Sandstone started out, cutting our teeth with impromptu campfire performances for those who wandered into our camp. So many great friends were made as we developed into a serious band. Those friends are still close and the campfire music making is still a way for us now to kick back, make new friends and is a hallmark for what this music is all about.

5. Speaking with the festival crew, who are used to much different types of festivals, and hearing the comparisons. For example: they were impressed by the lack of cleanup in the morning after the exodus of attendees. The sight of any rubbish in the campground was an oddity and to me showed how considerate the bluegrass audience is, treating festivals locations like hallowed ground that we are each the stewards of for a future legacy. And the crew at Whispering Pines did an amazing job with the grounds despite it being our inaugural year and a healthy amount of rain and mud. They have been amazing to partner with and have been instrumental in making the festival run so smoothly right out of the gate.

The 2016 installment of Blue Ox features Railroad Earth, Bela Fleck And The Flecktones, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Wood Brothers, Sam Bush and many others including Pert Near Sandstone