Delfest 2010 Cumberland, MD: Saturday

Article & Photos By J-man

Saturday May 29th, 2010:

My eyes opened as a cool breeze passed through my tent. The sound of banjo picking resonated in the distance and I knew immediately that it was going to be an amazing day. I crawled out of the tent and glanced across the way to see a group of gentleman picking in front of the artist entrance to the late-night venue. Looking past the group of pickers, the Cumberland hills reached into the low clouds, to keep hidden the top portion of the rocky mass. I knew right then why the McCoury's ended their search for a venue at that location.

The first official band of the day would be the Steep Canyon Rangers, a band that as of late has aligned themselves with comedian and banjo player Steve Martin. They did a great version of "Don't Ease Me In". I wanted to explore the fairgrounds so we wandered around the beautiful venue and found ourselves at the Potomac Stage for the Bluegrass Competition. The band Great Aspen was performing and they sounded great. The following band went by the name Bucky Walters. I thought to myself "This band could easily win the competition."

With a check of the time I realized that it was essential that we made our way over to the large building that played host to the late-night shows. During the day, the air conditioned venue was utilized for the workshops and Greensky Bluegrass was scheduled to play a set of rock covers. Upon entering the workshop the crowd looked slim as to be expected. Workshops have never been a huge pull in reference to crowd volume, so this was par for the course. As folks came into the building they were greeted by cool air and a stack of chairs from which they could grab a chair and sit wherever they pleased.

The set fired up and people began to get out of their chairs and make their way to the front of the stage. They played a great "China Cat" and wove in and out of several recognizable covers. Peering over my shoulder I saw people jogging into the venue. This was turning into a rager... Greensky brought it, both musically and in regards to their light positive stage presence. Their jokes had the whole place beaming. In the end it was by far the most raging workshop that I have ever attended.

Following the Greensky workshop, I knew it was time to get into a few beers. This required a short walk (about a quarter mile) to the local gas station/convenience store where I ran into the first Jambaser of the weekend; Angel. For those of you that are not familiar with Jambase, it's an online music community whose members; trade/discuss music, share links and meet up at festivals. Although I'm not a huge fan of the site per-say, the community is undeniably solid. I looked forward to meeting up with the remaining Jambasers in attendance.

After the beers were poured into plastic cups, we made our way over to the Main Stage to catch one of the groups that I was most looking forward to seeing that weekend; Larry Keel & Natural Bridge. Anyone who is familiar with Larry Keel knows he is a guitar slinging beast of a picker. Joined by his wife Jenny on bass, Mark Schimick on mandolin and Jason Flournoy on banjo, they set out to impress and that they did. The quality of music that comes out of Larry's musical projects is always, nothing short of incredible. At some point during the set, someone came to the front of the stage and handed Larry a mason jar of something pink. The band passed it around and Joe Craven came running from the side stage to get a swig. Following that whole to do, Joe stepped out for some hand drumming adding an interesting element to the picking. This set was for sure one of my favorites of the weekend.

Larry Keel Live at Delfest Grandstand Stage on May 29, 2010.

Heading back to the Potomac Stage, I looked forward to my second Greensky set of the day, as the first was a very enjoyable. They took the stage with the same humorous energy. They may have drawn the largest crowd of the weekend at the Potomac Stage. They jammed their songs out as to be expected, and at one point went in and out of "Freebird", which I thought was comical. I have been seeing Greensky for some time now, and I have to say; They have come a long way. As musicians, their stage presence and in regards to their following. At some point during the set as the beers started going down, I ran into my good friend, Ben whom I also met on Jambase. He lead me over to a sizable Jambase meet-up that consisted of my new acquaintances; Scott, his wife Anna, Eric and Joe. Shortly to follow another Jambaser; Larry made his way over to the group. We enjoyed the music, ate strawberries, drank some beers and discussed the interview that I had set up with Anders Beck of Greensky; following the set. As the set ended we wandered over to to talk to Anders and wait for the band to load out.

Greensky Bluegrass Live at DelFest - Potomac Stage on May 29, 2010.

(Photo By Eric Martin)

As we waited, up walked Jeff Austin and Adam Aijala of Yonder Mountain String Band. As any journalist would do, I approached them, introduced myself, and inquired about a possible interview. Request granted, I headed back over to the group and was reminded that Joe had asked me earlier in the day about attempting to get Yonder to play "Mother's Only Son" for him. So like a giddy fan, a ran back over and asked if the could play that song for my friend. Jeff responded with "We didn't play that last night, so I don't see why not." Adam nodded and I was on my way to interview Anders Beck and Mike Bont...

(I appologize for the sound quality as we worked with what was made available to us at the time... Which was the Artist Cafeteria.)

The next band was one of my friend, and close associate; Rex's favorite band... Cornmeal! I have seen this band countless times, and where as I have enjoyed them, I'm not sure I have seen them playing at this level. They have always brought a ton of energy, but for some reason Delfest is what it took to convert me to a full-fledged fan. The amount of passion, professionalism and outright enjoyment that Cornmeal reflects is truly amazing. They wove in and out of traditional sounding bluegrass into extremely drawn out, spacey sections. I was literally blown away by by the their transitions, peaks, and overall performance. Count me in. I'm with you, Rex. Towards the end of the set we found another Jambaser Heather and her beautiful child Lilly.

Cornmeal Live at DelFest (Main Stage) Cumberland, MD on May 29, 2010.

After all of the Raging at Cornmeal we need some food, if we were to survive the evening. So so off we went, camp bound. The flame was lit on the propane cooker and a pasta dinner was the end result. Now, this was the point when my appreciation for the facilities that Delfest offered surfaced. There is nothing, after a long day of raging under the hot sun at a festival that will give you a second wind like dinner and a shower. Now, I'm not going to review the shower set, but let me at least commend the folks of Delfest on clean restroom/showering facilities. To go one step further I will say there is nothing worse at a festival than having to use a dirty porta-john. Thank you Delfest, for clean restroom facilities and showers.

I was refreshed and excited to see Del and the Boys as I had only caught a portion of the set the previous evening. They are one of the most consistent bands that I have ever seen. Actually, on second though; they are the most consistent band that I have ever seen. Del sounded great! They played a few of my favorites "Count Me Out" and "Black Jack County". But, the highlight of the set for me, was a version of Larry Keel's "Mountain Song" with Larry Keel. Del sang as Larry looked on smiling. I could only imagine how proud Larry must have been standing on stage with the best bluegrass band in the world, as they played his song. The set was great. Leading up to the fest I could tell my girlfriend was unsure about a weekend of bluegrass, but after that evening's Del set; she was excited.

Del McCoury Band Live at DelFest Allegany County Fairgrounds on May 29, 2010.

You could feel how high the energy was at the Allegany Fairgrounds. People were thrilled with what had transpired that day. As well, they were excited for Yonder Mountain String Band. I have been back and forth on Yonder recently and was really hoping for a good set. I did not however expect to hear one of the best set that I have ever heard them play. They were so happy to be there, and so excited to play for one of the largest crowds of the weekend. I realized the potential of the sets greatness initially by the addition of Darol Anger, but also by their first song "Lord Only Knows"; one of my favorite Yonder tunes. Furthermore the fact that they played "Steep Grade, Sharp Curve" right after. I was excited. Then, enter Del. The legend himself joined a thrilled YMSB. For me, the highlight of the set: "Ramblin' In The Rambler>Mother's Only Son>Ramblin' In The Rambler" clocking in at twenty minutes. Joe's request had been granted. The rest of the set was amazing, with Yonder playing the majority of my favorites. I couldn't have been happier.

Yonder Mountain String Band Live at DelFest Allegany County Fairgrounds on May 29, 2010.

The late night sets called for the Lee Boys and the Travelin' McCourys. I knew right away that it was going to be a superjam of sorts. We stopped back by the ticket booth, saw the kind gentleman who assisted us the previous evening, and headed over to camp to watch the crowd grow. As the music began we entered the venue. The Lee Boys always bring a ton of energy and really good time. The pedal steel driven band plays sacred gospel music, with the highest imaginable energy. After a while, we stepped out for some air and began to wander around the fairgrounds. We ended up at our buddy Scott's site, who was camped in the Artist Camping section; right next to Greensky Bluegrass.

We sat around and joked as Greensky picked around a fire. "How delightfully enjoyable." I thought to myself. A couple of the guy came over to share in our conversation and good time. I really enjoyed those cats. We headed back over towards the late-night venue and got inside to see Del on stage with Jeff Austin, The Lee Boys and The Travelin' McCourys! A superjam it was.

The rest of the evening was a blur of laughs, smiles, campfires, picking and the best of times... As Ben and I were the last men standing of the group. We pillaged the fairgrounds for non-sense of some sort, and over and over we found it, ran into Jeff Austin and raged. At the end of the evening I said goodbye to Ben and climbed into my tent. What a day it was, and what a day the following would be...


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